Technology is becoming a bigger player in perfecting organ donation. New technologies like the Toronto XVIVO Lung Perfusion System allow organs to remain outside the human body for extended periods so physicians can ensure donor transplants are up to snuff before transplants.
In 2008, Dr. Shaf Keshavjee, a thoracic surgeon and director of the lung transplant program at Toronto General Hospital, and his colleagues from the University of Toronto successfully developed a machine that allows them to keep a lung viable outside the body, allowing more time to measure and assess the organ before transplanting it.
The system also allows doctors to “enhance” the delicate organ so that it ends up in a healthier state than it was when it came to them.
Organs, especially lungs, can be damaged when a patient dies. As the Toronto Star reports, only about 15% of donated lungs end up being used each year, but with Dr. Keshavjee’s innovation, Toronto General Hospital is able to use 40% of the lungs donated.
“In a donation after cardiac death, only 2% of lungs are typically used,” says Dr. Keshavjee. “I think this could easily be moved to 50%. We can resue many of the lungs we don’t use today. Now we can see we are not only going to preserve an organ, but we are going to make it better. I think that this strategy is applicable to all organs, but they have specific needs. I think mistakes in the past have been assuming all organs need the same thing. So systems need to be developed to meet the needs of each organ.”
Right now, the machine facilitates transplant of lungs that have been outside of the body for 16 hours. But with more research, Dr. Keshavjee says he thinks they could work on lungs for two to three days before transplanting.
Watch Dr. Keshavjee explain how the machine works:
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