Investigating the physiology of normothermic ex vivo heart perfusion in an isolated slaughterhouse porcine model used for device testing and training

Benjamin Kappler (Corresponding author), Carlos A. Ledezma, Sjoerd van Tuijl, Veronique Meijborg, Bastiaan J. Boukens, Bülent Ergin, P. J. Tan, Marco Stijnen, Can Ince, Vanessa Díaz-Zuccarini, Bas A.J.M. de Mol

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BACKGROUND: The PhysioHeart™ is a mature acute platform, based isolated slaughterhouse hearts and able to validate cardiac devices and techniques in working mode. Despite perfusion, myocardial edema and time-dependent function degradation are reported. Therefore, monitoring several variables is necessary to identify which of these should be controlled to preserve the heart function. This study presents biochemical, electrophysiological and hemodynamic changes in the PhysioHeart™ to understand the pitfalls of ex vivo slaughterhouse heart hemoperfusion. METHODS: Seven porcine hearts were harvested, arrested and revived using the PhysioHeart™. Cardiac output, SaO2, glucose and pH were maintained at physiological levels. Blood analyses were performed hourly and unipolar epicardial electrograms (UEG), pressures and flows were recorded to assess the physiological performance. RESULTS: Normal cardiac performance was attained in terms of mean cardiac output (5.1 ± 1.7 l/min) and pressures but deteriorated over time. Across the experiments, homeostasis was maintained for 171.4 ± 54 min, osmolarity and blood electrolytes increased significantly between 10 and 80%, heart weight increased by 144 ± 41 g, free fatty acids (- 60%), glucose and lactate diminished, ammonia increased by 273 ± 76% and myocardial necrosis and UEG alterations appeared and aggravated. Progressively deteriorating electrophysiological and hemodynamic functions can be explained by reperfusion injury, waste product intoxication (i.e. hyperammonemia), lack of essential nutrients, ion imbalances and cardiac necrosis as a consequence of hepatological and nephrological plasma clearance absence. CONCLUSIONS: The PhysioHeart™ is an acute model, suitable for cardiac device and therapy assessment, which can precede conventional animal studies. However, observations indicate that ex vivo slaughterhouse hearts resemble cardiac physiology of deteriorating hearts in a multi-organ failure situation and signalize the need for plasma clearance during perfusion to attenuate time-dependent function degradation. The presented study therefore provides an in-dept understanding of the sources and reasons causing the cardiac function loss, as a first step for future effort to prolong cardiac perfusion in the PhysioHeart™. These findings could be also of potential interest for other cardiac platforms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number254
Number of pages16
JournalBMC Cardiovascular Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2019


  • Biomarkers
  • Cardiac electrophysiology
  • Cardiac physiology
  • Ex vivo
  • Normothermic perfusion


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