A team of University of Minnesota cardiothoracic transplant experts have performed the Midwest’s first “breathing lung” transplant, an innovative surgical approach that utilizes technology capable of keeping donated lungs warm and breathing during transportation, keeping them healthier prior to transplant.
The double-lung procedure led by Gabriel Loor, M.D., assistant professor in the Medical School’s Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, was performed in the last week at University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview. The patient, a 51-year-old man from Minnesota, had been suffering from emphysema. He is currently doing well in his recovery.
During traditional transplants donated lungs are removed, placed on ice for transportation and thawed at the transplantation site. In a breathing lung transplant, a TransMedics Organ Care System is used to pump blood and oxygen through donated lungs to keep them breathing during transport, essentially simulating conditions of the human body. At the same time, the machine allows for continuous monitoring of the organ, giving surgeons information about quality and how the lungs are faring in transit.
“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.”