New box is improving the way lungs reach the transplant patient

SOUTH BEND, Ind.--- Each year, about 1400 lung transplants are performed in the U.S.

The traditional way to transport lungs for surgery involved putting them in a cooler with ice.

Now, there's a better way to preserve these organs and we are calling it "Lung in a Box".

Fernando Padilla takes pride in his cars and his family, but a year and a half ago he couldn't keep up with either.

Pulmonary Fibrosis had destroyed his lungs.

"I was getting tired,” said Fernando. “I was coughing a lot and I was spitting up a lot."

"I saw how bad he was getting you know, day by day," said Lupe Padilla, Fernando’s wife.

Fernando needed a transplant, and when donor lungs became available doctors used an experimental technology to transport them.

It's called "Lung in a Box".

"This technology has the promise to improve the outcome of lung transplantation," said Dr. Abbas Ardehali, Director of the UCLA Heart, Lung, and Heart-Lung Transplant Programs.

Instead of putting the organ on ice, doctors kept Fernando’s lungs in a warm, breathing state, while a machine circulated blood and oxygen through them.

Fernando was the first patient in the U.S. to have his lungs stored this way, and since then doctors have studied more than 300.

"We have noted that the patients who are receiving their organs, the lungs that were kept in the box do better," said Dr. Ardehali.

Lungs on ice cannot survive for more than eight hours, with the "box"; however, doctors have transplanted lungs after 12 hours.

The lung in a box technology will soon be tested in another clinical trial to see if it can improve the condition of lungs that are considered unusable.

The idea is to expand the donor pool so more patients can receive life-saving transplants.

Thanks to this new technology Fernando is healthy and back to doing what he loves most, spending time with his family and his cars.


REPORT: #3810

BACKGROUND: About 140,000 Americans have been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. It usually affects people between the ages of 50 to 75. Pulmonary fibrosis is a disease marked by scarring in the lungs. Tissue deep in the lungs becomes thick, scarred, and stiff. That scarring is called fibrosis. In certain cases, the cause of pulmonary fibrosis can be found, but most are unknown. It can develop quickly or slowly and there is not a cure. Most people with the disease only live about three to five years after diagnosis. It can lead to other medical problems, including collapsed lung infections, blood clots in the lung, and lung cancer. As the disease worsens, it can lead to respiratory failure, heart failure, and pulmonary hypertension. (Source:

CAUSES: In most cases, the cause is unknown. However there are certain things that increase the risk of developing the disease. They include:
* Certain viral infections
* Cigarette smoking
* Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Some people who have GERD may breathe in tiny drops of acid from their stomach, which can injure the lungs. (Source:

TREATMENT: Many doctors label pulmonary fibrosis as an untreatable disease, but there are a few treatments that can be done to help suppress its effects. Unfortunately, there is no standard method of treatment approved by the FDA. This is mainly due to the fact that people suffer from different experiences with pulmonary fibrosis ranging from fairly stable to severe. Lung transplantation can be a viable treatment option for those dealing with pulmonary fibrosis. In 2013, pulmonary fibrosis accounted for nearly half of all lung transplants done in the United States. Medical improvements and new technology is allowing for easier lung transplants to be performed. (Source:

NEW TECHNOLOGY: A lung transplant team at the Ronald Raegan UCLA Medical hospital has successfully transplanted the nation's first "breathing lung" into a 57 year old suffering from pulmonary fibrosis. These new "breathing" lungs come from a device known as the Organ Care System (OCS), which can keep a lung in a living, breathing state while it is outside the body. The OCS does this by continuously circulating blood and oxygen through the lung. Previously, lungs had to be put on ice to be preserved during a transplant, but if placed in an OCS box, a lung can remain in a warm breathing state for 12 hours or more. This technology not only improves the natural function of the lungs but is also allowing transplant teams to better assess donor lungs, since the device keeps the lungs in an active state for a longer period of time. The OCS is also creating a possibility for expanding the donor pool by allowing for longer transports of donor lungs. This device comes after the success of the "heart in a box" technology which worked in a similar manner for donor hearts. The lung and heart transplant program at UCLA is the largest lung transplant program on the West Coast. (Source:

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Abbas Ardehali, MD, FACS
Director, UCLA Heart, Lung and Heart-Lung Transplant Programs
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

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