Machine that keeps blood pumping around stomach of dead donors saves organs that would once have been thrown away
16:51 GMT, 3 April 2012
Transplant surgeons have made a breakthrough that could potentially lead to hundreds more patients receiving organ transplants.
A team from Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham say they have managed to save and use transplant organs that would have been previously discarded.
In a recent operation they kept a donor's oxygenated blood circulating around their liver, pancreas and kidneys after their death using a special system. The organs were then transplanted into waiting patients.
The ECMO machine was used on living patients to help them recover from swine flu (as seen her at the Royal Brompton Hospital). Now surgeons have used the system to preserve donor organs
It meant the organs were healthier
and less likely to be damaged than in a conventional retrieval when dead
donor organs can go several hours without a blood supply during transfer
to a recipient.
The system, known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), involves a machine which consists of a pump, a membrane oxygenator, and a heater to provide a constant temperature for the circulating blood.
ECMO has been used for other purposes in the past, such as treating swine flu victims, but this is the first time it has been adopted for use in transplants
The NHS has a shortage of organ donors. Surgeons at Queen Elizabeth Hospital are working on preserving available organs
Liver transplant surgeon Mr Paolo Muiesan told MailOnline: 'Usually after brain death we flush and store the organs with cold solutions, but the organs can sustain some damage.
'This time after the donor died we opened their abdomen and using ECMO continued to pump their own blood around their system for two hours. This improved the functioning of the organs.
'We used a clamp to stop the blood circulating to either the brain or heart for ethical reasons.'
Mr Muiesan said it meant doctors could recover organs that would usually be considered too damaged or unusable.
said: 'The transplant community has been trying for 20 years to
research ways of preserving organs by looking at better ways of
optimising, resuscitating and storing them. My prediction is that we are
doing this with ECMO.
'This is a great leap forward for Birmingham, and we are now looking at acquiring a new machine to extend ECMO-assisted organ donation procedures in more hospitals within our region.'