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Available hearts not enough to meet Saudi transplant demands

The Kingdom has the fourth most living organ donors in the world and is 44th for brain-dead donors

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The number of heart transplants is low due to a shortage of the organ, the general manager of the Saudi Organ Transplantation Center told Alsharq newspaper.

Dr. Faisal Shaheen said only 110 hearts from patients who died after being declared brain-dead were available, not enough to meet a demand for 200 to 400 heart transplants a year.

He said: “There is a great shortage of available hearts and not any heart can be transplanted to any patient. The size and age of the heart must match the patient’s.”

Shaheen said some people claim hearts cannot be transplanted because they carry the feelings and emotions of their true owner.

“The argument is that the heart communicates with hormones in the body to create emotions such as fear or joy. There is no scientific evidence to prove this hypothesis.”

The Kingdom has been performing heart transplants since 1993, but they were only restricted to ventricular surgeries as no one needed full transplants back then, said Shaheen. “The organs that can currently be transplanted are ventricles, lungs and livers.

“If diabetic patients were able to receive pancreas transplant, they would be healed from diabetes completely. Pancreas transplants can be done today at King Fahd Hospital in Dammam.”

The Kingdom has the fourth most living organ donors in the world and is 44th for brain-dead donors.

The success rate of operations done in the Kingdom is comparable to the United States and the United Kingdom, said Shaheen.

“One brain-dead organ donor can save the life of seven other people,” said Shaheen

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on December 15, 2014.