Procedure helps those on lung transplant list

December 6, 2012

About 20% of people who need a lung transplant sadly die while waiting for a donor.

This is because there aren't enough donors and the lungs are so sensitive when a donor dies.

Only about 15% of lungs stay healthy enough to transplant.

But doctors now have a way to repair those lungs so they can save more lives.

66-year-old George Schwab is happy to leave the hospital today, healthy after having a lung transplant three weeks ago.

"I couldn't walk 25 feet on oxygen without being out of breath and now I just walked a couple hundred yards this morning and I feel fine," Schwab said.

He also feels fortunate he was able to get a new lung thanks to a clinical trial at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Transplant surgeon Dr. Edward Cantu says they're using a new technique called Ex Vivo lung perfusion.

Using this machine, doctors can repair damaged donor lungs.

"We can profuse it and ventilate it at body temperature, that allows the lung to recover function," Dr. Cantu said.

And he says, in 50% to 80% of cases, the lungs are made suitable for transplantation.

So it'll help more patients like George come off the transplant waiting list.

"This technology will allow us to do maybe four times as many transplants as we currently do," Dr. Cantu said.

The technique is still in clinical trial.

In fact, George was the first patient in our region.

But doctors say so far the results here and at other locations are very promising.

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