LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Baptist Health has a new way to transport donor hearts and give transplant patients a better chance at life.

The SherpaPak is the latest way doctors will get donor hearts to and from their patients.

“As scarce as hearts are to come by these days from donor hearts for a recipient we have to make the best use of them,” Baptist Health Transplant Institute Program Director Dr. John Ransom said.

Dr. Ransom said it definitely beats the old way of doing things.

“In times past we put it in a cooler with ice surrounding a bag of liquid and it was pretty good but it wasn’t precise,” Dr. Ransom said.

“We know that organs preserved on ice they tend to go below the temperatures actually that we want,” Baptist Health Transplant Institute Surgical Director Dr. Karol Mudy said.

Dr. Moody said that can create problems with an organ already hard to come by.

“Some of the parts of the organ can get frozen and freezing of the cell is irreversible damage to the cell,” Dr. Mudy said.

The new device, while it also looks like a cooler, protects donor hearts both physically and thermally by using a rigid canister system that fully suspends the heart in a pressure-controlled environment that maintains the temperature for more than 40 hours.

“With this, the heart is very soft and pliable and more like in its natural state so when we take it out it’s better preserved,” Dr. Ransom said.

He said it’s already clinically proven to not only provide better results for the actual transplant but the years after as well.

“In medicine we all work towards one goal right, to help people,” Dr. Mudy said.

He said the SherpaPak is another tool to do just that.

“It is great that this technology is here,” Dr. Mudy said.

Baptist Health is the only adult heart transplant institute in Arkansas. They performed the first heart transplant in the state in November 1989. Since that time Baptist Health has performed 316 life-saving heart transplants.