Midwest’s first “breathing lung” transplant performed successfully at University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

New technology changes the way organs are prepared, transported for transplantation

A team of University of Minnesota cardiothoracic transplant experts have performed the Midwest’s first “breathing lung” transplant, an innovative surgical approach that utilizes technology capable of keeping donated lungs warm and breathing during transportation, keeping them healthier prior to transplant.
 
The double-lung procedure led by Gabriel Loor, M.D., assistant professor in the Medical School’s Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, was performed in the last week at University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview. The patient, a 51-year-old man from Minnesota, had been suffering from emphysema. He is currently doing well in his recovery.
 
During traditional transplants donated lungs are removed, placed on ice for transportation and thawed at the transplantation site. In a breathing lung transplant, a TransMedics Organ Care System is used to pump blood and oxygen through donated lungs to keep them breathing during transport, essentially simulating conditions of the human body. At the same time, the machine allows for continuous monitoring of the organ, giving surgeons information about quality and how the lungs are faring in transit.
 
In a sense, the lungs are virtually alive until they reach their recipient.
 
“The breathing lung transplant approach is a totally different mentality on how we perform these procedures, allowing us to improve the function of donor lungs prior to transplant while getting unprecedented data about their condition,” said Loor. “Our hope is that by making this approach available here, we can increase our ability to transplant more donor lungs into the patients that need them, even at greater distances from our transplant center.”
 
According to Loor, the Organ Care System also offers regenerative effects for donor lungs, potentially allowing transplant of lungs that would have once been considered unusable, either due to distance from a recipient or concerns about the lung’s condition. Many donors have conditions puttingstress the lungs. In the OCS device, the lungs can recover in a healthy environment. The device’s sophisticated monitoring capabilities allow transplant surgeons to decide if and when the lungs are ready to be transplanted. This is the basis of the EXPAND trial, a pivotal trial in transplantation that will test the device’s ability to regenerate lungs.
 
The Breathing Lung device is currently part of two major clinical trials in the United States, INSPIRE and EXPAND. The University of Minnesota is involved with both trials and the staff has undergone rigorous training to utilize the technology.
 
The University of Minnesota recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the University’s solid organ transplant program. In particular, the Lung Transplant Program at the University of Minnesota has a rich and successful history. Since 1986, more than 650 lung and heart-lung transplants have been performed on adults and children. The program has one of the highest survival rates in the nation. Care through the University of Minnesota program is life-long and encompasses both patients awaiting transplant and transplant recipients.
 
Even with the most innovative perfusion methods, the greatest opportunity to save more lives through transplant is if more people register as organ, eye and tissue donors and share the gift of life. Minnesotans can register as a donor by checking the box on their driver’s license or state ID card application or online at www.DonateLifeMN.org.
 
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The University of Minnesota Medical School, with its two campuses in the Twin Cities and Duluth, is a leading educator of the next generation of physicians. Our graduates and the school's 3,800 faculty physicians and scientists advance patient care, discover biomedical research breakthroughs with more than $180 million in sponsored research annually, and enhance health through world-class patient care for the state of Minnesota and beyond. Visit www.med.umn.edu to learn more.