Innovative technology saves lives, lungs at Cleveland Clinic

Cleveland Clinic
Posted at 8:23 PM, Jun 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-15 15:37:03-04

CLEVELAND — Dan Lynch, from Pennsylvania, spent years trying to treat his illness and then spent months on a waiting list for a lung transplant. Before being diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, Lynch enjoyed spending time playing with his grandchildren.

The disease scarred his lungs, preventing Lynch from breathing normally and causing simple activities, like playing with his grandchildren, to be extremely challenging, up until the Cleveland Clinic stepped in.

Three months after being placed in the transplant list, a lung became available, the hospital said.

That lung didn’t quite meet the strict transplant standard, which normally would have meant the organ would have to be discarded and Lynch would have to wait even longer on the list, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Thanks to technology at the Cleveland Clinic, however, the lung was reassessed and proven worthy of a transplant using the facility’s ex vivo lung perfusion machine, the hospital said.

The technology was highlighted on the popular medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” in a season 6 episode. In 2010 when that episode aired, the machine was relatively unheard of. In 2019, the ex vivo lung perfusion machine is more than television gold, it’s a reality that is saving lives.

"The ex vivo lung machine is a way we have, sort of, taking lungs that are either questionable from a function standpoint for transplant, or lungs that we simply need a little bit better assessment outside of the body to determine whether they're transplantable," Dr. Kenneth McCurry of Cleveland Clinic said.

The lungs are placed under a dome and solutions are infused through them as they simulate breathing. Doctors then assess lung function over the span of a few hours, according to the hospital.

"If the lungs work well on the machine and everything else looks okay, then we think that they're appropriate for transplantation," McCurry said.

Lynch is back home in Pennsylvania with a new lung and the ability to play with his grandchildren once again, thanks to the ex vivo lung perfusion machine.