New technology is creating more transplant opportunities for Hoosiers in need of lifesaving lungs
INDIANAPOLIS—National statistics show that more than 80 percent of donated lungs are discarded because they are too damaged for transplant. But now, a first-of-its-kind technology in Indiana is helping doctors to salvage injured donor lungs to save more lives.
Surgeons at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital recently performed Indiana’s first lung transplant on a patient using the XVIVO Lung Perfusion System, a special device that gives doctors the additional time and tools they need to further evaluate and improve donor lungs before they transplant the organs into a patient.
IU Health Methodist Hospital, home to Indiana’s only lung transplant program and the IU Health Methodist Research Institute, is one of only seven centers throughout the United States participating in a clinical study of this lifesaving technology which is designed to increase the pool of available lungs for people with end-stage pulmonary disease who are waiting for a transplant. The XVIVO technology was originally developed and tested in Canada, where it helped transplant surgeons repair a majority of injured donor lungs that would have been discarded and double the number of lungs available for transplant.
Before XVIVO came along, the typical lung procurement process was an urgent race against the clock. Once surgeons removed the lungs from the body of a donor, only a few hours remained until the organs were no longer considered viable for transplant into a recipient. The problem with this tight timeframe was that it didn’t allow surgical teams the necessary hours to further examine or repair the majority of injured donor lungs—which are often of borderline quality and potentially salvageable. As a result, only about 15 percent of donated lungs ever made it to a transplant recipient.
Now, the XVIVO technology offers more options and opportunities for transplantation, providing surgical teams with an expanded 12-hour timeframe and therapies designed to help them carefully evaluate and improve potentially salvageable lungs. Donated lungs are transported ‘on ice’ from the donor hospital and brought to a lab at the transplant center where they are connected to the tubes and hoses of the XVIVO device. The donor lungs are then warmed to body temperature and injected with a liquid solution filled with nutrients, oxygen and proteins that help to rid the lungs of excess water. From there, the lungs are placed beneath the device’s bubble-like, see-through plastic dome and hooked up to a mechanical ventilator that enables the organs to “breathe outside of the body” as physician researchers test the lungs’ ability to absorb oxygen. If all goes well, the rehabbed lungs are then transplanted into a recipient.
“Basically, this technology buys more time for our surgical teams to ‘test drive’ and improve the donated lungs to make sure they’re in good shape to transplant into a patient,” said Dr. Thomas Wozniak, cardiothoracic surgeon and surgical director of heart and lung transplantation at IU Health. “Ultimately, more lungs salvaged means more lives saved.”
By expanding the donor pool, this technology may help to secure lifesaving lungs for more high-risk patients who are seldom offered the opportunity of a transplant. The technology also has the potential to shed light on better ways to prepare and enhance other transplantable organs such as the heart, intestine, kidney, liver and pancreas.
IU Health performs nearly 500 solid-organ transplants a year, making it the fourth largest solid-organ transplant center in the nation, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. IU Health Methodist Hospital is the home of IU Health’s lung transplant program and performs 50 lung transplants annually, making it the 10th largest program of its kind in the U.S.
About Indiana University Health
Named among the “Best Hospitals in America” by U.S. News & World Report for 16 consecutive years, Indiana University Health is dedicated to providing a unified standard of preeminent, patient-centered care. A unique partnership with Indiana University School of Medicine—one of the nation’s leading medical schools—gives our highly skilled physicians access to innovative treatments using the latest research and technology. Learn more at www.iuhealth.org.