Lungs made to ‘breathe’ outside body in unique transplant

October 30th, 2008 - 3:35 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 30 (IANS) In a path-breaking process, a team of British doctors has performed the country’s first lung transplant by using a machine to allow the lung to ‘breathe’ outside the donor’s body prior to the operation.Doctors at the University Hospital of South Manchester in Wythenshawe performed the 14-hour operation on Kenneth Collins, 55, diagnosed with emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

According to The Independent, the procedure has never before been performed outside Sweden, where the doctors, who pioneered it, had themselves carried out the surgery only six times.

Previously, lungs for transplant could only be assessed for suitability while still inside a donor on a life-support machine.

In the new technique, lungs are removed from a donor and pumped with blood and oxygen to keep them healthy outside the body for a far longer period than would normally be possible. This lets doctors monitor their condition and judge more accurately their suitability for transplant.

In the case of Collins, the lungs were removed from the donor and transported to the hospital packed in ice. When they arrived they were hooked up to a machine for 13 hours which pumped blood, oxygen and gases into the organs to keep them healthy while the patient was being prepared for surgery.

Normally lungs can only survive for four to six hours outside the body but in this case the lungs were still usable 16 hours after they were removed from the donor.

Nizar Yonan, the director of transplant at the University Hospital of South Manchester, told The Telegraph: “Mr. Collins is making excellent progress and is an example of how this procedure benefits patients who may otherwise have died waiting for a transplant due to the national shortage of lungs. We have around 30 patients who have consented to be transplanted using ex-vivo organs and I am confident that many lives will be saved using this technique.”

Doctors said the technique could increase the number of lung transplants carried out by a quarter because by using the machine, organs that would previously have been rejected because of poor quality can now be transplanted.

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