Hospital Uses ‘Lungs In A Box’ To Offer Transplants Amidst Donation Shortage

Needing a lung transplant is a big deal. There are a lot of reasons a patient might need one, such as suffering from COPD or COVID-19.

However, there aren’t that many viable lungs being donated for transplants. The lungs available for transplants simply aren’t meeting the demand and medical teams are working to figure out a way to solve the problem. One issue with getting lungs for transplants is that the available lungs are often rejected by hospitals and medical centers.

The lungs may be swollen or infected, which automatically makes them unusable for transplants. However, some medical centers are using a special device called XPS to test and revive “unusable” lungs and make them usable again!

Photo: YouTube/Northwestern Medicine

The device, nicknamed lungs in a box, allows lungs to live outside a body while doctors can work to reduce the swelling, cure an infection, or perform testing for viability.

It can be a long process, but it allows lungs that would be thrown out to actually be transplanted into a patient! When patients are dying on the lung transplant waiting list because it’s taking too long, having a few extra sets of lungs can be a real game-changer.

Photo: YouTube/Northwestern Medicine

In January 2022, Northwestern Medicine used “lungs in a box” to provide a transplant to 65-year-old Mike Piwowar. He suffered from COPD and would get out of breath from doing even the most basic tasks. He desperately needed new lungs, but the waiting list was slow and they weren’t finding a match for him.

The medical team at Northwestern Medicine was able to take lungs that were being rejected by other facilities and assess them using the XPS device. When the lungs showed positive test results, they were able to move forward with the transplant – potentially saving Mike’s life in the process!

Photo: YouTube/Northwestern Medicine

The hospital wrote about the procedure on YouTube, saying: “With a global shortage of donated lungs, some patients die while on the waitlist. To help expand the donor pool, Northwestern Medicine is now using a device from XVIVO called XPS™ which is used for ex vivo lung perfusion (EVLP) – nicknamed ‘lungs in a box’ – to rescue potentially viable lungs and those initially deemed “unacceptable” for transplant.”

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