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New and improved donated lungs

Healthsource WJRT
Healthsource WJRT(WJRT)
Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 9:08 AM EDT
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Cancer, COPD, fibrosis, there are many reasons why someone may need a lung transplant. But thousands of people waiting will never get one in time. In fact, 80 percent of the lungs that are donated for possible transplants are discarded due to poor function or disease. But now, a new innovative procedure can restore compromised, donated lungs, and help save more lives. 

This is a donated lung being restored to almost new to save the life of this man, Dan Lynch.

Every breath was a struggle for this grandfather of seven.

“It’s not a very promising prognosis,” Dan shared with Ivanhoe.

Dan was suffering from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a disabling lung disease with no known cure.

Kenneth McCurry, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic explained, “He was very sick by the time he came to a transplant.”

With few options and no viable transplant, surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic used ex vivo lung perfusion, or EVLP, to restore a not-so-perfect, donated lung for Dan. The donated lung was attached to a miniature heart-lung machine. For the next six hours, fluid and oxygen pumped through the organ. This process removes excess water and reverses some existing injuries that would otherwise have kept it from meeting transplant requirements.

“We were quite amazed that there were some lungs that we perfused that we didn’t think would be usable, but they got much better on the machine and performed quite well when we ended up transplanting them in a patient,” Dr. McCurry recalled.

Forty-five patients, including Dan, received transplanted lungs they wouldn’t have without EVLP.

“So that’s 45 patients that otherwise may have not gotten a lung or a set of lungs and may have died waiting for a set of lungs,” clarified Dr. McCurry.

Lynch shared, “I feel good. I feel great, and I’m very grateful.” 

Ready to return to grandpa duty.

There’s no additional risk to the patient receiving a perfused lung and rejection rates have not increased. In 2017, the most recent year where numbers were available, 1,300 people were on the waiting list for lungs. More than 300 died waiting for a suitable organ. Livers and kidneys are also being perfused and Dr. McCurry hopes to begin perfusing intestines and other organs in the future.

Copyright 2020 WJRT. All rights reserved.

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