A 51-year-old Minnesota man is recovering after receiving the state's first "breathing" lung transplant.
The experimental procedure by University of Minnesota surgeons was made possible by a portable device that circulates blood and oxygen through the organ after it has been removed from a donor. So far, the machine has been used at five clinical trial sites in the U.S.
Doctors hope the machine will improve patient survival and extend the time that physicians have to transplant an organ.
The device lets transplant doctors look far beyond their geographical area to find an organ that is a good match for a patient, said U of M surgeon Gabe Loor.
"If we find an excellent match out of Georgia, with this device we have no concerns going over there," Loor said. "It really takes the transportation time out of the equation."
"When we had the lungs on the device and I was seeing it breathing and ventilating and blood flowing through it, it's as if it never left the donor," Loor added. "I felt like I had all the time in the world now. They weren't in an ice cooler. I wasn't worried about how long I had before I could transplant them."
The device cost the university $250,000. Data are still being gathered on the device's safety and effectiveness. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved it for use only in clinical trials.
Loor, though, predicts it will reduce the number of lungs that are wasted and cut the time patients wait for a lung from an average of five months to as little as one month.
The U of M produced this video highlighting the new device: