Objectives: The use of 'extended criteria' donor hearts and reconditioned hearts from donation after circulatory death has corresponded with an increase in primary graft dysfunction, with ischaemia-reperfusion injury being a major contributing factor in its pathogenesis. Limiting ischaemia-reperfusion injury through optimising donor heart preservation may significantly improve outcomes. We sought to review the literature to evaluate the evidence for this.
Methods: A review of the published literature was performed to assess the potential impact of organ preservation optimisation on cardiac transplantation outcomes.
Results: Ischaemia-reperfusion injury is a major factor in myocardial injury during transplantation with multiple potential therapeutic targets. Innate survival pathways have been identified, which can be mimicked with pharmacological conditioning. Although incompletely understood, discoveries in this domain have yielded extremely encouraging results with one of the most exciting prospects being the synergistic effect of selected agents. Ex situ heart perfusion is an additional promising adjunct.
Conclusions: Cardiac transplantation presents a unique opportunity to perfuse the whole heart before, or immediately after, the onset of ischaemia, thus maximising the potential for global cardioprotection while limiting possible systemic side effects. While clinical translation in the setting of myocardial infarction has often been disappointing, cardiac transplantation may afford the opportunity for cardioprotection to finally deliver on its preclinical promise.
Keywords: Cardiac transplantation; Ischaemia–reperfusion injury; Ischaemic conditioning.
© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Association for Cardio-Thoracic Surgery. All rights reserved.