Tuesday, September 26, 2006
The New York Times reported on Sunday interesting and good news about the recent rather dramatic decrease in waiting time for certain individuals for lung transplants. The Times reported some of the reasons, a new allocation method, more organ donors, and better technology:
Recent changes have revitalized lung transplantation. Starting in May 2005, new rules nationwide put patients who needed transplants most at the top of the list — people who would soon die without a transplant, but who had a good chance of surviving after one.
Previously, lungs went to whoever had been waiting longest, even if another patient needed them more. The waiting time was often two years or more, so there was little hope for people with lung diseases that came on suddenly or progressed rapidly.
Another major change is that more lungs from cadavers have become available, for two reasons: more people are becoming organ donors, and doctors have figured out ways to salvage lungs that previously would have been considered unusable. The new methods use drugs, respirator settings and other techniques to prevent damage to the lungs and keep their tiny air sacs open in brain-dead patients.
In the past, lungs could be retrieved from only about 15 percent of organ donors, but at some centers the rates have risen to 40 percent. Dr. Herrington said that in Minnesota, the number of lungs retrieved went to 97 from 25 in a single year.