Breathing life into lung transplants

FRESNO, Calif.

Nancy Block travels far and wide to find the perfect paintings, But a few years ago her world was closing in on her. She was diagnosed with a rare lung disease, fibroelastosis.

"I started on 2 liters oxygen, " Nancy, told Action News. "By the time I was in the hospital I was on 8, which is an inhuman amount."

The tissues of her lungs were stiffening. Soon they would stop working. A transplant was her only option. Nancy was called in for a transplant seven times, but each time, the organ was either not a perfect match or was not working properly, but doctors at New York-Presbyterian offered her a new option.

"The ex-vivo is an opportunity to test lungs we would be turning down otherwise," Frank D'Ovidio, M.D., Ph.D., an associate surgical director of the lung transplant program director of the ex vivo lung perfusion program at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia, said.

In ex vivo, lungs that would not pass the test for transplant are hooked up to a perfusion and ventilator system outside the body.

"Over four hours we can have a more throughout understanding of how that lung is really ventilating and performing," Dr. D'Ovidio

The lungs are re-warmed, fluid is forced through them and a special solution re-nourishes them. So far, seven lungs have been tested, 4 were turned down, but three were successfully transplanted. Nancy has one of them

"I was breathing right away without oxygen," Nancy said. "I'm walking. I'm driving."

And she's looking forward to flying to Europe to find her next work of art.

Because the lungs are perfused, doctors believe they'll be recondition and make a better organ for transplantation with lower risk of failure. Right now there's discussion about the possibility of ex-vivo becoming the standard procedure for all lung transplants.

If you would like more information, please contact:
Jaya Tiwari
New York Presbyterian/Columbia
(212) 342-1518

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