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Ind. man get's state's first 'breathing lung' transplant

The organ is kept inside a machine that keeps it functioning; the transplant was part of an international study

By Steven Penn
Hendricks County Flyer

AVON, Ind. — Thanks to Indiana University Methodist Hospital and an innovative technique known as the ‘breathing lung’ transplant, Damon Bradtmueller of Brownsburg now has a new set of lungs.

According to information from IU Health Methodist, the TransMedics Organ Care Systems (OCS) Lung method allows doctors to place the donor lungs inside of a machine that keeps the organs functioning under natural circumstances — with oxygen and blood flowing through them at a normal body temperature — until they can be placed inside the patient.

Doctors fear the traditional ice cooler method, which has been used for decades, may harm the donor lungs due to the cooling and re-warming process, as well as the time without blood flow.

This technique is part of the INSPIRE trial, which is an international study comparing the health of patients who have transplants with both methods. IU Health is the only hospital system in Indiana involved in the study and one of only eight nationwide. Other hospitals include UCLA Medical Center, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and Cleveland Clinic. Bradtmueller’s transplant marks the first one of its kind in Indiana and, coincidentally, comes 25 years after IU Health Methodist performed the state’s first lung transplant.

Dr. I-wen Wang, a cardiothoracic surgeon at IU Health Methodist who specializes in heart and lung transplantation and is serving as the principal investigator for the trial, is hoping the trial will prove which method is best.

“All of the transplant centers involved in this study are really trying to answer one question: ‘When it comes to transporting organs like the lung, which conditions are best — warm versus cold?,’” Wang said. “The answer could potentially transform how we transport all organs and ultimately help us save more lives.”

In January 2013, Bradtmueller, 63, was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, which according to the American Heart Association is high blood pressure that occurs in the arteries in the lungs. It was evident then that a transplant would be needed.

Bradtmueller said when he heard about the trial involving the ‘breathing lung,’ which was brought from an out-of-state donor hospital, it made sense to him, so he signed up.

“Originally, it was given to us and it just looked like the logical thing to do,” Bradtmueller told the Hendricks County Flyer. “It seems like it makes sense, why wouldn’t you want in on that? It has seemed to work so far.”

He had the surgery June 30 and was at the hospital recovering until this week when he was allowed to go home, this time without the need for an oxygen tank, which he had used for the last nine months.

“I feel good,” he said. “There’s still pain, but overall I feel good.”

Obviously, he said, being only about a month out from surgery, there will still be restrictions, and he will need to keep his coordinator with questions.

"They say there are no stupid questions and there are none here because they want to know what’s going on with you," Bradtmueller said.

Susan, Bradtmueller’s wife, said support from family and the care at IU Health Methodist has helped them get through this.

“We’ve had a lot of support from our family and friends, and we always like to plug the transplant team,” she said. “You couldn’t ask for better care and preparation.”

Bradtmueller agreed.

“It’s like an Indy 500 team,” he said. “Each person has their own individual job and they coordinate so well together. You feel like you pull in the pits and 'boom' you have a new set of lungs and you pull out and somebody is already working on you (saying) ‘You have to start walking, you have to start doing this.’”

According to IU Health Methodist, Wang performed the transplant with Dr. Thomas Wozniak, a cardiothoracic surgeon and director of heart and lung transplantation at IU Health.

The hospital was able to acquire the TransMedics technology with the support of the hospital’s research grant, Indiana Organ Procurement Organization, Inc., as well as a gift from Methodist Health Foundation.


©2014 the Hendricks County Flyer (Avon, Ind.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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