Success for Scotland’s first ever ‘dead heart’ transplant

Colin Davidson is the first person to have a Donation after Circulatory Death Heart Transplantation in the country.

Scotland’s first non-beating heart transplant recipient is looking forward to Christmas following his historic procedure.

Colin Davidson, 59, is the first person to have a Donation after Circulatory Death (DCD) Heart Transplantation in the country.

The procedure, carried out by specialist surgeons at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital in West Dunbartonshire, has opened a new chapter for the future of heart transplantation recipients, which will potentially save the lives of many more heart failure patients.

Mr Davidson had suffered from heart problems for around 13 years.


He was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and dilated cardiomyopathy and had a defibrillator and a cardiac resynchronisation therapy defibrillator (CRTD) fitted in 2017 to deal with what became heart failure.

NHS Golden Jubilee is now only the seventh heart transplant centre worldwide to have performed a DCD, as DCD organs were previously thought to be unsuitable for transplant.

It is only recently that UK surgeons have had the ability to carry out DCD transplants.

Previously, they were able only to transplant beating hearts from donors after they were certified brain dead.


DCD hearts weren’t thought to be acceptable for transplantation as they were deemed too high risk, however, developments in organ perfusion and retrieval techniques such as the Organ Care System (OCS), showed evidence that they could be suitable.

Colin Davidson, heart.
Life-saving equipment: The transplant took place at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital.

Mr Davidson, a tyre fitter, said: “I was getting dizziness more often, breathlessness, no energy, couldn’t walk 200 yards without being out of breath and having to stop.

“It was really scary at times, thinking, ‘is this my last breath, is this it?’.

“It was a bit scary at first when they mentioned DCD and being the first one in Scotland to do it was a bit frightening, but I’d heard other people in England had had successful ones so it did put me at rest a bit.

“They told me with having a rare blood group it could be up to two years to receive a transplant to best prepare me, but luckily for me it was only five weeks, which I’m so grateful for.

“I obviously didn’t know at the time I was going to get a DCD heart, but I was just really glad that someone could gift me their heart and I now feel 100%. I feel normal again, which is just an amazing feeling.

“I don’t feel special being the first one in Scotland to have this procedure, I just feel grateful beyond words to my donor and their family and all of the medical and healthcare professionals who have given me a life again.”

Golden Jubilee National Hospital.
Clydebank: The Golden Jubilee National Hospital.

Sites that already undertake DCD report that outcomes for patients receiving the procedure are comparable to those given a Donation after Brain Death (DBD) organ, the traditional transplantation method.

Phil Curry, Golden Jubilee consultant transplant surgeon, carried out the first Scottish DCD procedure with the help of Royal Papworth’s Simon Messer and the dedicated transplant team at the Clydebank hospital.

Phil Curry, Golden Jubilee consultant transplant surgeon.
Surgeon: Phil Curry led the operation.

He said: “Years of research have gone into the possibility of using non-beating hearts to significantly increase the number of people who could benefit from the procedure.

“This has been the culmination of immense hard work and widespread support to introduce this programme across the transplant community.

“Both these two major advances – DCD Heart Retrieval and DCD Heart Transplantation – at the Golden Jubilee are an important milestone for the Scottish National Advanced Heart Failure Service (SNAHFS).

“DCD Heart Retrieval and DCD Heart Transplantation will be a new chapter in future heart transplantation for our recipients in Scotland that will increase the number of heart transplants and give our recipients this life changing and life-saving opportunity.”

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