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Thursday, 26 April, 2001, 11:30 GMT 12:30 UK
Artificial lung breakthrough
lung function test
Patients with chronic lung illness could be helped
An implantable lung could keep patients with serious lung diseases alive long enough for them to beat potentially deadly infections.

The Hattler Respiratory Catheter could begin testing in Europe next year, it is claimed.

The device is passed up through a vein in the leg and lodged in the vena cava, the main vein returning blood to the heart.

It is approximately 18ins long, and consists of membranes which pass oxygen into the blood and take out carbon dioxide.

There's been a need to take over the function of the lungs and provide support while the lungs heal

Dr Brack Hattler
The catheter is hooked up to an oxygen supply, with the end result that blood is re-oxygenated as it passes the catheter.

The inventor, Dr Brack Hattler, from the University of Pittsburgh suggests that it could supply approximately half the oxygen an adult requires to survive.

However, it is not a long term solution, being suitable for implantation only for approximately two weeks.

Dr Hattler said that it could be used to help people with chronic and advanced lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a combination of emphysema and bronchitis.

Risk of death

These patients, who already have significant breathing problems, are at higher risk of death when they catch further lung infections.

Dr Hattler said: "There's been a need to take over the function of the lungs and provide support while the lungs heal."

He said that another possible application was in burns patients whose lungs have been severely damaged by the inhalation of hot gases.

He also suggested that front-line military hospitals could use the devices to keep service personnel alive while they suffered the effects of chemical weaponry.

If it proves successful in clinical trials, it would be the first successful implanted re-oxygenation device.

An attempt 10 years ago was abandoned due to poor results.

A current alternative, however, is to pass the patient's blood outside the body, infused it with oxygen, and then replace it, but this is a complex process which is fraught with difficulties.

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24 Sep 99 | Medical notes
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