Entries in Organ Transplants (6)


New Technology Could Improve Preservation of Livers for Transplant

Keith Brofsky/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A device created by researchers at the University of Oxford in Britain is capable of preserving human livers for up to 24 hours outside the body.

With the massive demand for liver transplants, the promising creation could make more of the organs available. Two transplant operations were performed at King's College Hospital using the device, and surgeons tell the Wall Street Journal that the patients are recovering well.

According to the Journal, the device attempts to recreate the environment inside the human body, maintaining temperature and pumping oxygen-rich blood cells into the organ. This allows the liver to continue burning sugar and producing bile as they normally would.

The current method of preserving livers involves cooling them significantly, which slows down decomposition, but does not stop it.

By preserving livers for longer periods of time, the device would allow the organs to be transported over longer distances, which is important considering the approximately 30,000 people on waiting lists for livers in Europe and the United States.

According to the Journal, researchers caution that the device needs further testing, but if regulators grant approval, the device could potentially be available by 2014.

While it is unclear how much of an improvement the device would be over cold storage in terms of future liver health, the news is significant.

Chris Sonnenday, a University of Michigan Health Systems transplant surgeon told the Journal, "If they show they can extend that time without adverse events in the recipient, that would be big....particularly in parts of the world where organs do travel longer to get to the recipient."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Hospital Suspends Organ Donor Program After Transplant Mistake

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(DALLAS) -- After the wrong patient received a kidney last week, Methodist Dallas Medical Center is now suspending its kidney and pancreas donation program.

Though the kidney was compatible with the patient, the fact that it went to the wrong person on the organ donation list, is an indication that something went wrong.  

"Obviously, the process was not followed correctly and that's what we want to make sure doesn't happen again," Kathleen Beathard, a Methodist Dallas spokeswoman said, according to ABC News television affiliate WFAA in Dallas.

The person responsible for the oversight has been terminated, and the patients awaiting transplants have been made aware of the program's suspension.
Beathard noted that if patients become eligible for transplants now, the surgeries can be done at other hospitals, according to WFAA. Until then, Methodist Dallas has instituted a corrective action plan to ensure the incident doesn't happen again.

The kidney transplant program at Methodist Dallas hopefully will resume soon, Beathard said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Transplant Technique Keeps Lungs Breathing Before Transplants

New York Presbyterian Hospital(NEW YORK) -- Nancy Bloch, 60, of Westchester, N.Y., was physically fit and had no history of medical problems, but a routine checkup that involved a quick listen to her chest detected something she recalled her physician's assistant saying, "didn't sound right."

Bloch was diagnosed in 2007 with a rare lung disease called diffuse interstitial lung disease.  After her diagnosis, her health started quickly deteriorating.

After seven unsuccessful attempts to undergo a routine double-lung transplant, Bloch became in August the second patient so far at New York-Presbyterian Hospital to successfully undergo a revolutionary experimental approach to lung transplantation that could offer potentially more viable lungs to more patients like Bloch who are on the recipient wait list.

The technique, called "ex vivo" -- or, outside the body -- involves taking the lungs that were removed from the donor and placing them in a transparent case, where they are hooked up to a pump and ventilator.  The lungs are closely monitored for up to four hours as they are nourished with nutrients and antibiotics and pumped with oxygen.

In the traditional lung-transplant approach, the lungs are assessed in the deceased donor's body before being removed. If the lung is considered viable, it is stored in cold temperatures within a short window of time before the transplant.

But the new preservation technique "revives" the lungs in a transparent box by gradually warming the lungs to normal body temperature, and the organ is reinstated in an environment as if it is in the body. The lungs are assessed and reconditioned in the operating room until the final minute before being placed in the recipient's body.

In 2011, nearly 1,400 lung transplants were performed, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"We have the potential to increase, even double, the number of transplants we're performing, and to satisfy the needs for more lung transplants," Dr. Frank D'Ovidio, the associate surgical director of the lung transplant program at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Transplant Recipients at Greater Risk for Cancer

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(BETHESDA, Md.) -- While organ transplants are a lifesaving procedure, most transplant recipients are far from finished with hospital visits once the new organ is successfully accepted into the body.

"Transplants are truly one of the miracles of modern medicine," said Dr. Eric Engels, a senior investigator of the National Cancer Institute and lead author of a new study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. "But a weakened immune system certainly plays a role in organ transplant patients being at risk of cancer."

The study examined more than 175,000 organ transplants performed in the United States, which made up nearly 40 percent of all transplants procedures between 1987 and 2008. Researchers said the transplant recipients showed to be at double the risk of the general population for developing cancer.

The most common cancer among the transplant recipients analyzed was non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. People with weakened immune systems are known to be at increased risk of the disease. Along with a weakened immune system, Engels said that many cancers were detected in the original damaged organ, possibly resulting from the organ's weakened state.

And for reasons that Engels said were not quite clear, patients were also at greater risk of developing skin cancer.

Of course, despite the potential cancer diagnosis, experts warn that the study results should not deter patients from receiving transplants.

"Yes, the risk of cancer is higher, but the alternative to transplant is usually death," said Dr. Jeffrey Punch, chief of the section of transplantation in the department of surgery at University of Michigan. "In the case of kidney transplantation where the alternative is dialysis, it still doesn't make sense to dwell on the cancer risk because the most common cause of death in patients with kidney disease is...heart attacks and strokes."

The risk of these diseases is many times higher in dialysis patients compared to transplant patients, which is why life expectancy is roughly double in kidney transplant patients compared to patients waiting on dialysis -- despite the risk of more cancer, Punch said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Controversial Changes to Organ Sharing Rules On the Way?

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(RICHMOND, Va.) -- Significant changes to organ sharing protocol could be on the way.

Under new rules that are being considered, surgeons retrieving organs for transplants after the donor’s heart stops beating would no longer have to wait at least two minutes to make sure the heart doesn’t spontaneously start beating again.

The rules were proposed by the United Network for Organ Sharing, a Richmond nonprofit organization that coordinates organ donation under contract with the federal government.

The same organization is also trying to eliminate a ban that many consider to be a much needed protective measure for patients in controversial cases who would be potential donors. This refers to the present ban on even considering anyone as an organ donor before doctors and family members have independently decided to stop trying to save them.

The proposed changes are part of the first major overhaul of the 2007 guidelines for a specific type of “donation after cardiac death” (DCD).

While proponents for the change argue that they would strengthen the transplant system, critics say that the change would increase the risk that donors would be treated like “tissue banks” rather than sick people fighting for their right to live or die peacefully.

What DCD involves is surgeons having the ability to take organs within minutes of forms of life support having been cut off from hospitalized patients who still may have some brain activity. The protocol had been the norm for organ donors before the neurological criteria “brain death” became the standard in the 1970s.

Doctors have started to increasingly revisit DCD as the number of people needing transplants rose and it has become a growing source of organs as a result.

Around 6,000 Americans die each year while waiting for donated organs.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Arizona Budget Cuts Put Some Organ Transplants Out of Reach

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(MESA, Ariz.) -- As the United States continues debating expanded health care access, the state of Arizona has begun rationing some care it says it cannot afford to give its poorest residents. Beginning on Oct. 1, Arizona's Medicaid program, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, stopped covering seven types of organ transplants, including heart transplants for non-ischemic cardiomyopathy, lung transplants, pancreatic transplants, some bone marrow transplants and liver transplants for patients with hepatitis C.

The reductions made by the Arizona state government were approved by the federal government, according to an Aug. 11 letter from Gloria Nagle, associate regional administrator for the Division of Medicaid & Children's Health Operations. In addition to limiting organ transplants, Arizona also restricted coverage of prosthetics and zeroed out podiatrists' services, preventive dental services, and wellness and physical exams for adult Medicaid enrollees.

"This may be a harbinger of what will evolve in this Obama national healthcare system where the expense of the health system will only be able to be contained by limitation of access," said Dr. David C. Cronin, director of liver transplantation at the Medical College of Wisconsin. "So everybody may be covered, but all services may not be available."

Of Arizona's decision to pull the plug on an insured patient's transplant, he said, "I don't see how that's fair on any level. It's indefensible to renege if the patient did everything they were supposed to do and they don't have another option. You shouldn't try to balance your budget on the backs of the most desperate patients."

Arizona's Republican governor and legislature, who already control the state's purse strings, want even more independence when it comes to determining which health care services Arizona Medicaid patients receive. Indeed, Arizona's newly elected Senate President Russell Pearce has argued for cutting the state's Medicaid program, even if that means Arizona will lose about $7 billion worth of federal grants.

Jennifer Carusetta, chief legislative liaison for AHCCCS, said the state is facing a $1 billion deficit in the program come July 2011. Although Arizona's fiscal year began July 1, the state opted not to implement the cuts until Oct. 1, when it estimated they'd affect about 100 people on transplant lists. However, Carusetta said the state anticipated that only a fraction of them were likely to feel direct effects of the policy change. "We believe that only about 15 percent of those individuals would be able to get a match and secure an organ," she said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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