By Jennifer C. Yates and Tim Betler
Having performed more than 3,000 cardiothoracic transplants, UPMC’s medical team was prepared last week when it got the call about donor lungs available for a 53-year-old patient on the transplant waiting list. But this time, things were different.
For the first time at UPMC and on the East Coast, doctors here used a unique new portable system that keeps vital nutrients and blood pumping through the lungs before the transplant surgery. The transplant was part of a clinical trial involving the Organ Care System, also known as the OCS lung, by TransMedics, which doctors hope will keep the lungs healthier for transplant and result in better outcomes for patients.
Once removed from the body, donor lungs start to deteriorate quickly. Traditionally, the organs have been “put to sleep” as they are packed in ice and transported to recipients. However, the OCS lung is a perfusion machine that essentially keeps the lungs “breathing” until they can be transplanted.
“Unfortunately, many people waiting for an organ transplant die because usable donor organs aren’t available,” said Christian Bermudez, M.D., UPMC’s chief of cardiothoracic transplantation who participated in the transplant surgery March 4 along with surgeon Jonathan D'Cunha, M.D. Bermudez is principal investigator of a study involving the OCS lung. “Using this method, we believe we can help more people and save lives.”
The patient, a Moundsville, W.Va., resident who had suffered from pulmonary fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension, remained in the hospital Wednesday and was doing well.