• The small device making a big difference in heart transplants

    By: Blair Miller


    BOSTON - A small device used to transport hearts is revolutionizing the way doctors and hospitals conduct heart transplants.

    Designed by a Braintree medical device company called Paragonix, this tiny but mighty gadget is changing the way traditional transplants are done.

    "The traditional way really was based around the idea that treat the heart the way you would treat a steak," said Paragonix CEO Bill Edelman. "Stick it inside a cooler and fill it with ice and then upon arrival you can use it. The problem with that is, the human heart is not a steak."

    The way it works is quite simple - on the inside, a canister system holds the heart and a thermometer tracks the temperature constantly, making sure it stays between 4 and 8 degrees Celsius.

    Edelman says the device has been highly successful, citing a success rate of 100 percent in the 50 cases they have applied it in since June, saying "the results have been outstanding."

    The transplant team at Mass General was the first in the country to use the device and has been using it ever since.

    "It keeps the heart in a very stable environment to take it from one place to another," said MGH Cardiac Surgeon Dr. David D'Alessandro. "It's considerably more sophisticated than what we've been using."

    Dr. D'Alessandro says his team has been using the device on a majority of transplants at MGH and is trying to see if it leads to better outcomes.

    "I think this is just another good example of a technology that can help us do what we do better," said Dr. D'Alessandro.

    Dr. D'Alessandro also mentioned he expects other companies to enter this same field within the next decade.

    Paragonix, on the other hand, is looking to expand beyond just transporting hearts but other organs as well.

    Next Up: