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UK Transplant Performs Landmark Procedure

Media Contact: Ann Blackford, 859-323-6363, x230 

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 28, 2008) - A young woman from Kentucky is breathing easier today because of a new type of lung transplant performed for the first time in Kentucky by surgeons at the UK HealthCare Transplant Center. Rebecca Boyd, 23, of Pikeville received new lungs on Saturday, May 24.

The "donation after cardiac death" (DCD) lung transplant is an emerging new technique and only 12 such transplants were performed in the United States last year.  Although UK has performed DCD kidney and liver transplants for the past 12 - 18 months, this marks the first time for a lung transplant.

Dr. Timothy Mullett, director of UK's lung transplant program, said this technique may prove beneficial to expand the pool of potential organ donors.

"We are really in a crunch as far as lung transplants are concerned because of the limited number of donors available. Lungs are only available in about 15 percent of patients considered donors because lungs are either injured or susceptible to injury or disease early after brain death."

Organ donation after cardiac death has increased the donation of life-saving organs - mostly kidneys and livers - by as much as 25 percent in a few areas of the country. Some experts estimate that it could increase the number of deceased-donor organs in the U.S. by 30 percent.

Donation after cardiac death is becoming more prevalent across the country. "This type donation is slowly opening up and transplant centers that are doing them are starting to do more of them," said Dr. Mark Bonnell, director of UK's heart transplant program, who also participated in UK's landmark surgery.

Typically, organ donation occurs when a person suffers a traumatic brain injury from which there is no possible means of recovery. After all medical efforts are exhausted and rigorous testing determines that all brain function has ceased, brain death is declared. Organs are kept alive for many hours by mechanical ventilation to provide oxygen and the patient's own heart providing blood flow.

Organ donation after cardiac death occurs when a patient has suffered cardiac arrest and the heart stops beating.  Without proper blood flow, the vital organs become unusable for transplantation in only minutes.  Timing is very important in both DCD and brain death donation making transplantation "meticulously planned events," Mullett said.

Bonnell said that "although there may be some differences in immediate organ function from DCD donation versus donation due to brain death, the ultimate result is both very good and comparable. Importantly, this allows transplanting of more patients who would otherwise not have received organs."

Increasing the number of organ donations is not the only benefit from this type of organ donation.

"Donor families are desperate for a way to make some sense of a tragic situation," Mullett said. "Offering families the opportunity to donate organs brings a glimmer of something bright to a dark situation," Mullett said.

Currently, there are 99,000 people in the United States waiting on a life-saving organ or tissue transplant. A name is added to the list every 14 minutes. An estimated 15 to 17 people die every day due to lack of a donated organ. In Kentucky, 632 names are on the waiting list and 38 of them need lungs.

The UK HealthCare Transplant Center has been providing transplantation services since 1964, including lung transplants since 1991. UK surgeons now perform over 130 transplants each year. So far, UK has performed 12 lung transplants this year and is on schedule to do 25 to 30. The hospital did 18 last year.

The faculty and staff of the transplant center specialize in the transplantation of all major solid organs, including the heart, lung, kidney, pancreas and liver.

For more information about organ donation, visit the Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates or the UK HealthCare Transplant Center Web sites.


Page last updated: 11/19/2013 4:20:52 PM