New Transplant Program Preserves Lungs After Death

December 5, 2013 | Crandall & Pera Law
New Transplant Program Preserves Lungs After Death

An innovative experiment aiming to preserve the lungs of donors that die outside of a hospital could help ease the viable organ shortage nationwide, according to NBC News Health.

Currently, the U.S. does not have a system to recover organs quickly enough from registered organ donors who die unexpectedly, even though the air left inside lungs keep them from deteriorating right away as other organs do.

"There aren't enough lungs. We're burying them," said Dr. Thomas Egan, who is leading the project. "It turns out your lungs don't die when you do."

The new system would immediately notify next-of-kin upon the death of an organ donor for permission to participate in the research, pump air into the lungs to preserve them while the body is transported and a lung perfusion to preserve the lungs even longer while looking for abnormalities. Lungs that pass will be transplanted into patients willing to take a chance on these nontraditional organs, as part of the study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

In the United States, more than 6,000 people died in 2012 while waiting for new lungs as just 1,700 lungs transplants are performed each year. Only 15 to 20 percent of donated lungs are usable, often because complications during the donor's hospitalization damage them.

"The general public does not understand how hard it is to become an organ donor," said bioethicist Arthur Caplan of New York University's Langone Medical Center. "Only 2 to 3 percent of people die in circumstances that let them be organ donors." Read the full details here:

'Lungs don't die when you do': New transplant program might ease shortages

The human body’s resiliency is incredible. We now know that our lungs remain “alive” and viable hours after we die.

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