UPMC successfully uses organ preservation device in lung transplant
By Luis Fábregas
Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 9:03 a.m.
Instead of a cooler, Gary Cunningham's new set of lungs arrived at UPMC Presbyterian in a high-tech box on wheels.
The small, experimental machine kept the donor lungs functioning and “breathing” outside the body with a constant supply of blood and nutrients.
“They were still alive when they put them in me,” said Cunningham, 53, of Moundsville, W.Va., who underwent a double lung transplant May 4. “It was like new hope for me. I really have a chance here.”
UPMC surgeons who oversaw the surgery said on Wednesday that the first successful use of the Organ Care System on the East Coast could open the door to a larger pool of donor organs that are currently in short supply.
Like other donor organs, lungs are typically transported while resting on ice in a cooler with no blood circulation, a process that puts them at risk of deterioration.
The new device, which has been tested several dozen times in Europe, was first tested in the United States in December in Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. A European study published last year in the journal The Lancet showed good lung transplantation outcomes after preservation with the system.
The machine, made by Massachusetts-based TransMedics, allows the lungs to remain at a normal body temperature.
The lungs are provided oxygen and blood and flushed with a special solution of drugs and other substances that protect them and prevent contamination. By the time they are transplanted, up to several hours after being harvested, the organ's condition and quality might be improved, surgeons said.
Dr. Jonathan D'Cunha, who performed Cunningham's eight-hour surgery, said the device could allow surgeons to use organs that otherwise would be discarded.
“You can take a bad organ and improve it, and treat it before it goes into a human,” he said. “It allows us to push the envelope and take more organs and test them.”
D'Cunha said surgeons often pass up organs that are not in the best condition, with infections or trauma, and the new device might someday allow doctors to correct those deficiencies.
“If we prove that it's safe and effective, we can look at repairing and regenerating organs,” he said.
UPMC expects to enroll 10 patients in the clinical trial of the device under the direction of Dr. Christian Bermudez, UPMC's chief of cardiothoracic transplantation. The trial will randomly choose five participants to get the device and five to be treated by traditional means.
UPMC surgeons perform about 100 lung transplants every year, according to United Network for Organ Sharing. A little more than 50 people are on the waiting list.
Luis Fábregas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7998 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Maatta not a top rookie finalist
- Indictment alleges scheme defrauded government of $10 million
- Steeler testifies he didn’t know he was stabbed at first
- Pa. men to plead guilty to smuggling equipment to Middle East
- Penguins insider: Malkin found confidence in Game 3
- Switch in pairings helps Penguins defensemen find groove in Game 3
- ‘Save Chatham’ protesters ordered to leave Shadyside campus
- State College restaurant plans new statue of Joe Paterno
- Husband to stand trial in Derry middle school teacher’s murder
- Highmark’s insurance profit falls 40%
- Alaska’s Iditarod Trail challenges Unity couple