Doctors keep donated lungs “breathing” for four hours until they can be transplanted into patient”s body
Heaving gently inside a transparent case and covered in tubes, these “breathing” lungs look like something out of a sci-fi movie.
In fact, they are part of a revolutionary new way of transplanting lungs between a donor and their recipient.
Between the two bodies, surgeons at New York Presbyterian Hospital placed the donated lungs in a transparent case, where they were connected to a pump and ventilator.
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New approach: New York-Presbyterian Hospital doctors took donated lungs and kept them “breathing” in a ventilator before they were given to the recipient. A video, pictured, shows the organs moving up and down
They were then monitored for four hours, during which time they are given nutrients, antibiotics and pumped with oxygen, according to ABC News.
Then surgeons successfully placed them inside the recipient, 60-year-old Nancy Bloch.
Ms Bloch, from Westchester, New York, was diagnosed with a rare lung disorder called diffused interstitial lung disease in 2007.
The condition, which inflames the tissue around the air sacs in the lungs, meant she was short of breath and regularly tired – and could only be saved with a double lung transplant.
Revolutionary: In a transparent case, the lungs are warmed to body temperature, given nutrients and oxygen
Advanced: Surgeons show how the ventilator and nutrients tubes are connected to the donated lungs
Transplant: After four hours of monitoring, surgeons put the lungs in the recipient”s body, taking out her own
Speaking to ABC News, Ms Bloch said she originally thought the idea was ‘outrageous’.
“EX VIVO”: HOW DOES IT WORK
In traditional transplants, lungs are assessed in the donor”s body before they are taken out. If the lung seems viable for the transplant, it is stored in cold temperatures before the procedure.
The new technique “revives” the lungs in a box by gradually warming them to normal body temperature so the lung believes it is in the body.
They are then pumped with oxygen and given nutrients to keep them “alive”.
After four hours of monitoring, the lungs are assessed and when the recipient”s body is ready in the operating room, they are transferred immediately.
‘When I was told that the only thing to save me was a lung transplant, I said, “I”m not doing that”,’ Bloch said. ‘It seemed so outrageous.’
But with her health quickly deteriorating, she underwent the transplants – but a staggering seven attempts were unsuccessful.
In August, she became the second patient at New York Presbyterian Hospital to undergo the experimental ‘ex vivo’ – meaning ‘outside the body’ – approach.
And this time, it was successful.
Dr Frank D’Ovidio, a surgeon at the hospital, said the new approach, which warms the lungs before they are placed in the body, had many benefits.
In traditional transplants, doctors decide whether lungs can be used when they are still in the donor”s deceased body.
The new approach simulates the experience of being in a body for the lungs by warming them to body temperature.
Success: The procedure, which has been trialled at other hospitals around the country, came after the patient, Nancy Bloch, had undergone seven failed operations. These had used the traditional method of transplanting
After they are given oxygen and nutrients, doctors then consider whether they are suitable.
‘It allows us to get a better judgment of the organ,’ he told ABC News.
Surgeon: Dr Frank D”Ovidio, who carried out the operation, said the method could allow many more transplants as the lungs can be better assessed
Almosta third of donated lungs cannot be used for transplants, but he said some lungs might be suitable – it’s just tests that have incorrectly deemed them not so.
‘We used lungs we would”ve not been able to do otherwise,’ D”Ovidio said. ‘Initial tests proved concerns, but instead, we tested over time ex vivo and we saw improvement in the lung.
‘Wehave the potential to increase, even double, the number of transplants we”re performing, and to satisfy the needs for more lung transplants.’
This year there have been almost 1,400 lung transplants, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.
There are currently 25 patients, including Bloch, enrolled in a three-year clinical trial to test the new procedure. Five medicalcentres across the country are taking part in the test.
It will compare the ex vivo approach to the traditional method, before the Food and Drug Administration decide which should be the more common approach.
The risks and recovery time of the two procedures are similar.
Bloch, who is still recovering four months after the operation, said it seemed the transplant had been a success.
‘I believe it”s because I got clean lungs,’ she told ABC News. ‘When people ask me what they should do to help, I say they should be organ donors.’
New approach: New York Presbyterian Hospital, pictured, has now carried out two of the lung transplants
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