Record number of heart transplants carried out last year in Scotland

The previous record was 34 transplants in a single year, recorded before the service moved in 1995-96.

Record number of heart transplants carried out at Scotland’s Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank in last year iStock

Doctors in Scotland have carried out a record number of heart transplants in the past year.

Medics at the Scottish National Advanced Heart Failure Service (SNAHFS) at the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank carried out 40 of the procedures in the year 2022-23.

The previous record was 34 in a single year, recorded before the service moved to the Clydebank-based hospital in 1995-96.

The Scottish Government said the advancements in technology and technique, as well as the change to an opt-out system for organ donation, had led to doctors being able to transplant hearts after the circulatory death of the donor, increasing the number of organs that can be used to save lives and increasing the 90-day survival rate to 95%.

Key to this was the use of a machine described as a “heart in a box” which is used to transport the organ, but continues to pump blood through it, meaning transport can take longer than the previous four-hour target.

The SNAHFS team aims to build on this year’s transplant figure which brings the total number to 490 since the first was performed in January 1992.

The first 280 operations took place at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary before the service moved to NHS Golden Jubilee in 2008.

Speaking during a visit to the unit on Monday, health secretary Michael Matheson said: “It is a remarkable achievement to perform 40 life-saving operations in a year and my thanks go to all the staff at the heart transplant unit for their skill and dedication in making this happen – it is truly lifesaving for the patients.

“The unit has gone from strength to strength since its launch more than 30 years ago and with today’s medical advances it is amazing so many people are being given a new lease of life.

“We must also remember the donors, and we thank each and every one of them and their families for their gift of life.”

Matheson met with 29-year-old Megan Geddes, from Dalmuir in West Dunbartonshire who underwent a transplant in 2022 after suffering from issues with her heart since the age of 13.

She had a recurring chest infection when she was 13 and was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. 

For the next five years she underwent constant tests and had a defibrillator fitted aged 17 and was referred to the Scottish National Advanced Heart Failure Service at the Golden Jubilee in 2019 for assessment. She then had a transplant in 2022.

“I’m very grateful to have my transplant so young as I was told that I might not have lived past the age of 35, so I’m extremely grateful for this second chance at life. It’s been a big year for me,” she said.

“I am 100% better and appreciate the little things in life, like just singing in the shower.

“When I came round from surgery and had my first echo scan and heard the sound of my new heart beating I couldn’t stop crying.

“It was really emotional just listening to it because I had never heard a normal heartbeat before.

“I think about my donor every day and I am so grateful to them, and to their family for respecting their organ donation wishes.”

Jonathan Dalzell, a consultant cardiologist and the clinical lead at the SNAHFS, said the past year was “a landmark” for the service, crediting the “extraordinary teamwork, expertise and dedication of everyone involved”.