Lifewatch: Lung washing

Reported by Claire Hosmann - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

(WECT) - Doctors have found a way of washing organs to rid them of infections, dramatically increasing the number of lungs which are suitable for transplant.

Being diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, 31-year-old Lorraine Walsh has been in and out of hospitals her whole life.

Now, only seven weeks after the first lung transplant of its kind in Britain, Walsh is planning a new life.

The problem for surgeons hoping to give patients like Walsh a lung transplant is that 9/10 donor organs have to be rejected because they contain infections or fluid that stops oxygen from being absorbed.

The surgeons who operated on Walsh used a new technique to get over the problem.  They place the donor's lungs in a plastic dome and washed them out.

"With Lorraine's set of lungs it was just amazing," said transplant surgeon Karen Redmond.  "Initially the lungs weren't inflating very well. They were full of fluid. There had been previously documented infection. I was able to out rule infection, I was able to pull the fluid out of the lungs because of the solution that was going through the circuit. And you could see over the process of two to four hours the lungs deflated nicely."

The technique was pioneered at Toronto General Hospital.

Walsh's consultant said the new treatment will mean more transplants for people on the waiting list.

"We've already done more lung transplants this year, in 2009, than we did in the whole of 2006," said Dr. Martin Carby of Harefield Hospital.  "And as we're able to treat more people, I think the enthusiasm for the treatment grows, the investment for the treatment will therefore grow."

Surgeons believe they can double the amount of organ transplants they do each year with lung washing.