Do you know how the lungs are preserved before being transplanted? The steps that are taken? The choice of donors? Today we will answer these and many more questions.

The lung preservation system for transplantation is quite delicate. As well, we know, many organs must be transplanted as soon as possible because otherwise they may be useless. However, this does not happen in all cases. Today we are going to discover how the lungs are preserved and the maximum time they can be kept outside the human body.

Some transplants must be done immediately or within 6 hours after the organs are removed. For example, a heart transplant cannot wait days to be done. However, there are other organs that can last considerably longer. For example, the corneas or bone marrow  can be preserved for days and, in some cases, weeks.

In addition to knowing what the lung conservation system is like, we are going to review how they are transplanted, the duration of this type of transplant and the choice of patients who are waiting to receive this organ.

The conservation time of the lungs.

In the particular case of the lungs, these can be kept for a maximum time of 6 hours  after they have been extracted, a procedure that usually takes between 3 and 6 hours. However, if the transplant can be done earlier, much better. The way to preserve this organ is cold. However, the Reina Sofía Hospital in Córdoba has studied the implementation of a new technique that favors the preservation of the lungs for transplantation.

According to the head of the hospital’s transplant team, Ángel Salvatierra, lungs are quite difficult to obtain. Not so much because there are no donors, but because these organs tend to deteriorate very quickly after the death of the patient.

For this reason, the implementation of an innovative technique has been studied that will allow the lungs to stay healthy until they reach their receptor. The way to do this is to connect the removed lungs to a machine that oxygenates them. In addition, medications can be applied, which will favor its conservation. Thus, the lungs would remain as if they were still inside the thorax.

How is a lung transplant performed?

When a lung transplant is performed, the diseased organ is removed and replaced with the healthy one. This, although it seems obvious, does not happen in all cases. For example, when a kidney is transplanted, what is usually done is to put it next to the organ, without removing it, unless the original kidney is very diseased and causes some problem for the patient’s health. The results of a transplant are usually very favorable. The person can lead a completely normal life whose quality will be increased thanks to the donation of this organ. However, transplants have a limited duration.

In the case of the lungs, the average on which the survival or correct functioning of this organ revolves is around 11 years. Although this will depend on many other factors. For example, the health of the donated lung, if the person takes care of himself.

The demand for lungs for a transplant.

Although kidney transplantation is the most in demand, with dialysis a patient can enjoy an acceptable quality of life. This does not happen if the lungs are damaged. In these cases, if a transplant does not take place as soon as possible, the patient’s life is in real danger.

If a person who needs a lung transplant does not receive it in less than six months or a year, depending on the severity, they will most likely not survive. Even in some serious cases, many people cannot wait this long.

How are the sick selected?

As the lungs are an organ that needs to be transplanted quickly, the choice of patients is a challenge. But, a series of parameters are usually followed to make the choice as fair as possible:

  • Same territory: If the organs are donated in a city or autonomous community, for example, Barcelona, ​​it will be the person who needs this donation and who lives in Barcelona who will have a priority position.
  • Compatibility: The above is not of much use if the lungs for a transplant are not compatible between donor and recipient. Therefore, this is a fundamental aspect that will also be taken into account to avoid the possibility that the body will reject the organ that is received.
  • Zero urgency: A patient who needs a transplant as soon as possible, since he has a high risk of not surviving if he does not get an organ, is not governed by the above parameters. It has priority at the national level.

Are you an organ donor? Many people need this altruistic act in order to survive. As we have seen, lungs for a transplant are difficult to obtain and, at least in Spain, there are around 100 people on the waiting list, some of whom may have zero urgency.