Each year around 1,400 lung transplants are performed in the U.S. The traditional way to transport lungs for surgery involved putting them in a cooler with ice. Now there’s a better way to preserve these organs.
Fernando Padilla takes pride in his cars and his family.But a year and a half ago, he couldn’t keep up with either. Pulmonary fibrosis destroyed his lungs. “I was getting tired. I was coughing a lot and I was spitting up a lot.” Padilla said.
Lupe Padilla, Fernando’s wife, could sense he was suffering. “I was seeing how bad he was getting day by day.” She said. Padilla needed a transplant. When donor lungs became available, doctors used an experimental technology to transport them. It’s called “Lung in a Box”.
Abbas Ardehali, MD, FACS, Director of UCLA Heart, Lung and Heart-Lung Transplant Programs at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, is a proponent of the “Lung in a Box.”
“This technology has the promise to improve the outcome of lung transplantation.” Dr. Ardehali said, “We have noted that the patients who received their organ, their lungs that were kept in the box do better.”
Instead of putting the organ on ice, doctors kept Padilla’s lungs in a warm, breathing state. A machine circulated blood and oxygen through them. Padilla was the first patient in the U.S. to have his lungs stored this way. Since then, doctors have studied more than 300.
Lungs on ice cannot survive for more than eight hours. With the “box” doctors have transplanted lungs after 12 hours. Today, Padilla is healthy and back to doing what he loves most.
The “Lung in a Box” technology will soon be tested in another clinical trial to see if it can improve the condition of lungs that are considered unusable. The idea is to expand the donor pool so more patients can receive life-saving transplants.
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