In a game-changing breakthrough, Australian surgeons have successfully performed a heart transplant with a heart that had stopped beating.

Doctors and scientists at St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, Australia recently transplanted two circulatory dead hearts, which were no longer beating, into two patients, both of whom are now recovering well.

Currently, donor hearts are taken from brain dead patients whose hearts are still beating, which limits the number of hearts available for transplant.

But the donor hearts used for these world-first transplants had been dead for at least 20 minutes, and were revived using a ground-breaking preservation fluid before being successfully transplanted into patients with heart failure.

Bob Graham, the executive director of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, who led the research team, told Elizabeth Jackson from the ABC that this will mean around 30 percent more people will be able to have heart transplants.

The successful transplants were the result of a collaboration between the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in Sydney and St Vincent's Hospital.

Michelle Gribilar, 57, had the first transplant of this kind a few months ago, and is now recovering well. The second recipient, Jan Damen, underwent the surgery a fortnight ago and is now in recovery. Both suffered congenital heart failure.

The scientists developed a special preservation solution that works on a "heart in a box" to keep the dead heart healthy even without blood flow.

Graham explained the process to ABC:

"[Five minutes after the donor has died] we can take the heart out and we can put it on a console where we connect it up with blood going through the heart and providing oxygen.

"Gradually the heart … starts beating again, and we can keep it warm and we can transport it on this console and we also give it a preservation solution that allows it to be more resistant to the damage of lack of oxygen.

"So those two things coming together almost like a perfect storm have allowed this sort of donation, this sort of transplantation of a heart that has stopped beating to occur. Before that it wasn't possible."

Find out more in Graham's interview over at ABC.

Source: ABC, Daily Telegraph