A new purpose-built machine used to asses and treat the function of donor lungs before transplantation could contribute to more lung transplants in the long term. While the lungs of many donors are good quality, some can swell on account of fluid that gathers in them, rendering them unsuitable for transplantation. The machine, developed by a Swedish company, allows the transplant team to get rid of the swelling and make the lungs fully functional.

The lungs taken from the donor are first cooled as all donor lungs are at the donor hospital. On arrival at the transplant center the donor lungs are hooked up to the machine. After being slowly re-warmed they are then ventilated so that they can be assessed. If, after 3 or 4 hours of treatment they are in good condition, they are cooled once more before transplantation.

Four patients at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden, recently received new lungs treated by this machine. This marks the first time the machine, acquired by the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg for research, has been used worldwide.

“We wouldn’t have been able to use any of these lungs for transplantation before the machine became available. The patients now have fully functional lungs and are doing very well so far,” said Goran Dellgren, docent at the Sahlgrenska Academy and consultant in cardiothoracic surgery at Sahlgrenska University Hospital. “We may be able to increase the number of transplants by 20-30%, which would be a blessing for all seriously ill lung patients in Sweden.”

Source: University of Gothenburg