For patients who suffer from a serious lung disease, a lung transplant may be the best treatment option to improve lung function and extend life. However, due to the limited availability of healthy donor lungs, the number of patients who receive a lung transplant is relatively small. But thanks to a technique called ex vivo lung perfusion (EVLP), the number of donor lungs available for transplant is increasing. With this innovative method of evaluating and preserving a pair of lungs, more patients will be able to undergo a lung transplant and recover.
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What Is Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion?
Ex vivo lung perfusion is a special technique doctors use to keep a pair of lungs “alive” outside of someone’s body during the time before a lung transplant.
Perfusion occurs when liquid flows, or is pumped, through the vessels of an organ. In EVLP, a blood replacement solution circulates throughout the lungs to get rid of any lingering blood or bacteria and keep the lungs at normal body temperature once they are removed from the body. The surgeon then evaluates the set of lungs to see if they function well and are viable for a transplant.
By simulating the environment of the lungs inside the body before a transplant, both the usability of a pair of lungs and success of the transplant increase.
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What Are the Benefits of Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion?
There are numerous benefits of ex vivo lung perfusion. Currently, the number of people in need of a lung transplant greatly exceeds the amount of available lungs for transplant. When doctors use EVLP, they are able to determine more accurately if a pair of lungs is viable for transplant or not. Some donor lungs that doctors would typically reject for transplantation due to minor issues are now being further assessed and ultimately utilized for lung transplantation, which make this life-saving procedure increasingly available to those patients in need. For some patients, a lung transplant is their only chance at recovery. Due to prolonged wait times, some patients die before they can undergo lung transplantation. EVLP helps reduce the length of the wait time.
To learn more about lung transplantation advancements and the lung transplant evaluation process, visit the Lung Transplant Program at UPMC website.
About Transplant Services
Established in 1981, UPMC Transplant Services is one of the foremost organ transplant centers in the world. Our clinicians have performed more than 20,000 organ transplant procedures, including liver, kidney, pancreas, single and double lung, heart, and more. We are home to some of the world’s foremost transplant experts and have a long history of developing new antirejection therapies—so organ recipients can enjoy better health with fewer restrictions.