A Hawaiian woman has become Arizona's first recipient of a "breathing lung" transplant.
Doctors say Estelle Ellington, 53, is expected to do well.
A team of doctors and nurses at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center were able to keep a set of donor lungs alive and breathing outside of the body as they were carried into the operating room.
The hope is the so-called "Lung-in-a-Box" will allow more lung transplant patients a greater chance at receiving lungs that function well right away, said Dr. Michael Smith, associate chief of thoracic surgery and surgical director of lung transplantation at St. Joseph's.
Smith also said that in the future, the technology could allow more lungs to be available for lung transplant recipients because they can be transported longer distances.
"Instead of packing the lungs on ice, we are able to keep them warm with blood circulating through them, and essentially breathing," Smith said.
At the heart of the technology is an experimental organ-preservation device called the Organ Care System, which keeps donor lungs "breathing" by perfusing them with oxygen and a special solution supplemented with packed red-blood cells during transport. The lungs actually expand and contract while inside the special box.
The purpose of the clinical trial is to compare donor lungs transported using the Organ Care System with the standard icebox method. It is also underway at lung transplant centers in Europe, Australia and Canada and will enroll a total of 264 randomized patients.
The lung transplant program at St. Joseph's has performed nearly 200 transplants since it started six years ago.
In the United States, more than 116,000 men, women and children currently need life-saving organ transplants. More than 2,300 people in Arizona need a transplant.
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