Best Life: Preserving lungs outside the body

Best Life: Preserving lungs outside the body

HOUSTON, Texas. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - Almost 114,000 people are on the waiting list for organ donation. On average, 20 people die every day waiting for organs to become available.

Now, a new FDA-approved technology at Baylor College of Medicine, called ‘breathing lungs,’ is saving lives. The Transmedics Organ Care System keeps lungs warm by circulating blood through them, while they are transported from organ donor to recipient.

Lung transplant recipient Cary Richardson told Ivanhoe, “You know, I smoked from an early age. I guess it was the cool thing to do, back in the day.”

Over the years, Richardson developed a very bad cough. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder left Richardson breathless and in need of a lung transplant.

Richardson detailed, “I had known several people and Gonzalez, who’d had lung transplants and I knew they hadn’t done very well. And, it scared me.”

Keeping lungs viable is extremely challenging.

“When an organ gets taken out of the body, travels, and then is put back into the body of another person, that’s not a natural phenomenon,” explained Gabriel Loor, MD, an associate professor of surgery at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.

In clinical trials, ‘breathing lungs’ were used to keep the organ working. This warming approach equals more successful transplants.

Dr. Loor continued, “What this device does, is it basically takes the lung and keeps it as if it is inside of the patient. It’s as if we’re bringing the patient directly to the recipient.”

“Once the lungs were in, I knew they were gonna be up and running,” said Richardson.

Post-surgery, Richardson used a breathing tube for only a few hours.

Richardson told Ivanhoe, “When they took it out, it was amazing. Cause when I took that first breath, it was just a sigh of relief.”

Dr. Loor said, “Our patients get so uplifted and so excited about something that’s new. Something that gives them hope.”

Dr. Loor said that in a landmark clinical trial, comparing ice to the device, it showed nearly a third of patients whose donor organs were iced down had issues. Whereas those who had the breathing lung transplant experienced far more successful outcomes.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer; Donna Parker, Field Producer; Bruce Maniscalo, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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