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Organ Care System Used at Florida Hospital Expected to Make More Lungs Suitable for Transplant

Tampa General Hospital (TGH) announced that is the first in Florida to use an organ care system that allows donor lungs, hearts, and livers to stay viable and working for hours during transport, and is likely to expand the number of life-saving transplants, including lung transplants for people with cystic fibrosis (CF), done at its center.

The first lung transplant in Florida using the machine — the Organ Care System by TransMedics — was performed on Oct. 22 at TGH.

“We can maintain the organs for longer periods, which means we can retrieve them from a wider geographic area,” John Dunning, MD, surgical director for Heart and Lung Transplantation at TGH, said in a press release.

“And, the condition of the organs at the time of transplant is better,” added Dunning, who is also a professor of cardiothoracic surgery at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.

The Organ Care System (OCS) is a portable device acting as a miniature intensive care unit that mirrors the human body, and is able to keep organs alive and functioning for longer periods.

Typically, organs are transported in medical coolers and lack a blood supply, which shortens their lifespan during transport — which can take several hours — to a hospital.

OCS transports organs at near body temperature. The device uses a process called normal temperature perfusion that constantly flows warm, oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to the organs, much as happens inside the body, TransMedics reports. As a result, hearts in transport beat, livers produce bile (one of its essential functions), and lungs with the aid of a ventilator ‘breathe.’

In addition to providing an adequate blood supply (ischemia) to donor organs, the system allows clinicians to monitor their health and optimize their state — by replenishing oxygen and nutrients — during transport. This means that more organs are likely to become medically suitable for a transplant.

“We can actually monitor their function on the machine, and see their function improving prior to transplantation,” Dunning said.

Lungs for transplant usually come from people who are declared brain dead, but OCS can allow them to come from people who died after cardiac arrest. This has the potential to increase by 25% to 30% the number of available lung donations, the release states.

In total, 585 transplants were done at TGH in 2019, ranking the hospital among the 10 busiest organ transplant centers in the U.S.

“OCS allows us to expand the organ pool by having access to a wider geography of donors, which allows us to save more lives through transplantation,” said Kiran Dhanireddy, MD, executive director of the TGH Advanced Organ Disease and Transplantation Institute.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of OCS for lung transplants.

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