Lung in a Box - TechKnow
Living Lungs Arrive, Breathing, Inside a Box
Doctors are trying a radical new way of transporting desperately needed organs for transplant.
By Dr. Sanjay Gupta
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Even a surgeon who's been performing transplants for decades admitted it was "surreal" to open the box and see a pair of breathing lungs inside.
That box arrived at UCLA Medical Center recently after a helicopter ride from a hospital in a neighboring state where an organ donor had just died. It was the first time this procedure had been tried with lungs.
"The lungs are getting oxygen. The lungs are getting blood," explained Abbas Ardehali, MD, director of the heart and lung transplant program at UCLA.
Lung tissue is particularly fragile and it is hoped that by sparing them the trauma of being iced down and then re-warmed, they will suffer less damage in the journey from donor to recipient, allowing them to travel farther and save more lives.
Some 1,650 people in this country are waiting for new lungs. David Ross, MD, director of the lung transplant program at UCLA, says they experience every moment of their lives as if they were drowning. "Literally, that you can't catch your breath, you can't get air into your lungs," he said. "That's what these patients experience persistently while they're waiting for a transplant."
Fernando Padilla, 57, agreed to be the first patient in the United States to receive a pair of breathing lungs, part of a worldwide study of this method.
Padilla was suffering from incurable pulmonary fibrosis and was permanently tethered to an oxygen tank. "He was suffocating," his wife Lupe Padilla remembers. "To see that is awful."
Today Padilla is taking walks with his wife and "feeling stronger every day."
"He's back to his old self," his wife said.
Video: UCLA Performs First Breathing Lung Transplant in the U.S.
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