Page last updated at 23:59 GMT, Friday, 19 December 2008

Lungs 'repaired for transplant'

Surgeons operating
There is a shortage of organs for transplant

Lungs have been successfully "reconditioned" to make them suitable for transplanting, a team of Canadian doctors has claimed.

Up to 80% of donated lungs have sustained damage during death or intensive care treatments.

The team from Toronto General Hospital was able to keep lungs stable outside the body long enough to repair them.

But a British transplant surgeon doing similar work warned that lungs treated in this way could be damaged.

Currently, 224 people in the UK are awaiting a lung transplant.

This has allowed us to progress from preserving donor lungs to actually being able to repair some of the injury before transplantation
Dr Marcelo Cypel, Toronto General Hospital

The Toronto XVIVO Lung Perfusion System technique involves pumping a bloodless solution containing oxygen, proteins and nutrients into the damaged donor lungs, which are protected in a special chamber.

This allows the surgeons the opportunity to assess and treat injured donor lungs, while they are outside the body.

A British team, at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester, are using a similar technique.

They only allow the donor lungs to remain outside the body for a maximum of two hours, and use the time to assess in detail whether or not they are suitable for transplant.

However, the Toronto team, working with a company called Vitrolife, keeps the lungs for up to 12 hours.

'A unique strategy'

So far four patients in Toronto have received lungs treated using this technique, and all have done well.

Three were given donor lungs which already met transplant standards, but which were improved by the team. The fourth was given lungs which were not suitable for transplant before the XVIVO technique was used on them.

We're not really at the level where we can assess and recondition over a long period of time
Nizar Yonan, transplant surgeon at Wythenshawe Hospital

Dr Marcelo Cypel, a transplant specialist at Toronto General Hospital, said: "This has allowed us to progress from preserving donor lungs to actually being able to repair some of the injury before transplantation.

"And we have done this using a unique strategy on donor lungs outside the body."

But Mr Nizar Yonan, leader of the Manchester team, said he had concerns about the length of time the Canadian doctors were spending treating the lungs.

He has used a similar perfusion system to assess lungs in two cases this year.

He said: "When you perfuse organs outside the body, they can deteriorate.

"We're not really at the level where we can assess and recondition over a long period of time.

"Even over two hours, they do deteriorate."



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