The Midwest's first "breathing lung" transplant was performed last week at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview.
Breathing lung transplants use a machine to push blood and oxygen through the lungs while in transit to the patient. The lung is also connected to a computer that provides real-time information and diagnostics during travel. It debuted in the U.S. just a year ago.
The lungs are never on ice during transit, which is the current standard method for donor organs. This new method allows doctors to monitor the quality of the organ and troubleshoot any problems before going into surgery.
The procedure was performed Nov. 13 on a 51-year-old Minnesota man with emphysema. He is currently doing well in his recovery.
Dr. Gabriel Loor, assistant professor at the University of Minnesota medical school, led the transplant team.
"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."
The traditional method of transporting organs only allows doctors a 4-6 hour window to keep it viable, but the breathing lung machine takes away that racing clock and helps patients get their lungs in a pristine condition. That gives a huge head start to recovery.
The machine was first used in Europe about two years ago. Last November, doctors used it in Los Angeles, and again in Pittsburgh in the spring month. Although it's only available on a limited, trial basis for now, doctors say patients in desperate need won't need to wait on a donor in the immediate area if it becomes standard.