By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Making lung transplants more viable, with an experimental new technique could save thousands of lives. Lungs are the most difficult organs to transplant. Only 20 percent of donor lungs are useable, but this new research could change that.

It’s been a long journey for Patricia Kingsbury. She’s been waiting six months for a lung transplant.Fewer than 2,000 lung transplants are performed in the United States each year because there aren’t many donor organs available.

Now an experimental procedure, being tested at Columbia Medical Center could dramatically increase the availability of lungs for transplant.

The Human Ex-Vivo Lung Profusion System allows doctors to determine if donor lungs will work before they’re transplanted.

“Lungs that we have concerns and that we would otherwise turn down at assessment, we have the opportunity to further test,” said Dr. Frank D’Ovidio, Surgeon at Columbia University Medical Center.

A special fluid, that is a blood substitute, is circulated in the lungs providing nutrients. Sensors inside the lungs tell doctors if the organs will work.

“How the lungs are ventilating, what are the pressures, what are the pressures in the airways, how the lungs are inflating,” said Dr. D’Ovidio.

“I just can’t believe these lungs are in me,” said Patricia.  She is one of about 90 patients taking part in the study.

“I can breathe like a normal person because for years, I haven’t,” said Patricia.  She hopes this technique will be approved so it can save other lives.

This new lung transplant therapy is being tested at several locations around the country, including New York City.

There are more than 1,700 people waiting for a life-saving lung transplant in the U.S.  Locally, there are 65 patients waiting for a lung transplant.

Lung Transplant Study Information-


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