Extraordinary breakthrough could save the lives of hundreds of patients
Experts say it could double annual number of lung transplants performed
Works by keeping lungs in effectively same conditions as they are in body
Will be put into practice at London hospital Royal Brompton and Harefield
Published: 18:54 EST, 9 May 2015 Updated: 19:39 EST, 9 May 2015
A British hospital is using cutting-edge medical technology to keep lungs ‘breathing’ outside the body for as long as 24 hours.
The extraordinary breakthrough could save the lives of hundreds of patients.
Medical experts say the technique could double the number of lung transplants that take place each year.
Tried and tested: The breathing lung transplant new machine that keeps organ wokring outside the body for up to 24 hours
It is being put into practice at London hospital the Royal Brompton and Harefield, which last year introduced another technique which can help keep donor hearts alive.
Donor organs have commonly been placed in a cool box and packed in ice to stop them deteriorating when being transported between hospitals before transplantation surgery.
This method allows the organs to remain outside the body for a maximum of six hours.
Optimistic: Medical experts say the technique could double the number of lung transplants that take place each year
But the groundbreaking Organ Care System (OCS) can keep the donor lungs breathing for a full day.
The OCS machine works by keeping the lungs in effectively the same conditions they would be in the body.
The lungs are placed in a portable sealed plastic box with a pump inside that provides a constant supply of blood to the organ.
A ventilator in the container inflates and deflates the lungs.
Medical experts say this ‘breathing lung’ technology can improve the organ’s condition.
It also opens the possibility that lungs could be transported long distances, and still be in a good enough state for transplantation at the end of the journey.
At present – due to damage during surgery and transportation – just 20 per cent of lungs from donors are suitable to be used.
Andre Simon, head of transplant surgery at the Royal Brompton and Harefield, has now carried out 12 transplants using OCS.
He said: ‘Organs were never meant to be frozen on ice. Previously we had no alternative.
‘But this can quadruple the length of time an organ can be kept before transplant, potentially doubling the number of surgeries and revolutionising lung transplantation.’
His patient Michael Tubbs, 26, who benefited from the new technology, said: ‘If this can help more people get lungs it would be amazing.
‘I am aware how lucky I am and that young people are dying waiting for new lungs.’