Breathing Lung Device Broadens Transplant Options

Four months of life – good life that includes daily walks several miles long without the oxygen tanks of Fernando Padilla’s past – are attributed to his double lung donor and the lung support device that kept them breathing once they had been removed from that donor. Performed at UCLA in November 2012, this was the first clinical use of the TransMedics Organ Care System (OCS) transport method for lung support between organ recovery and transplantation UCLA news release . Instead of storing the lungs in cold solution, they are kept warm, functional (breathing Oxygen) and supplied with red blood cells. Incredible.

Do the principles sound familiar? They match those achieved by the Oxford liver transplant group who recently successfully transplanted two livers after keeping them on a  liver support device . Not surprisingly there is also an active trial of a heart in a box support device meeting the same needs in heart transplantation.

This is a watershed moment in transplantation. Incessant deaths of potentially salvageable transplant candidates, failure to dramatically increase the number of available deceased donor organs and regulatory pressures to perform only successful transplants are all powerful drivers. Support devices for kidney perfusion are demonstrated to improve outcomes and permit selection of better quality organs based on perfusion parameters kidney support device .  Research efforts to achieve equivalent support for lung, liver and heart transplantation have all reached the clinical bedside within the past year. All remain in the clinical trial stage with encouraging preliminary results. We appear to have real progress in hand.

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