National / Science & Health

In a first, Okayama hospital combines healthy parts of donor's lungs to make one for transplant

Kyodo

In a world first, Okayama University Hospital has succeeded in combining parts of a brain-dead donor’s lungs to make one lung and transplanted it into a woman in her 50s.

The lower parts of both of the female donor’s lungs were damaged, making transplantation of an entire lung impossible, according to Dr. Takahiro Oto, the professor at the university who performed the surgery on Saturday.

“In Japan, donated organs are in short supply and we cannot waste even one,” Oto told a news conference Sunday. “We want to save patients by using parts of organs that are in good condition.”

The woman who received the assembled lung is from Okayama Prefecture. In 2007, she became sick from emphysema, in which air sacs in the lungs get damaged, causing shortness of breath and coughs. In 2011, she received a transplant to replace her right lung and her condition improved. But then her left lung became damaged and she had to be put on artificial respiration.

For the operation, Oto put together a lung using the upper half of the donor’s left lung and the upper third of her right lung, after having tested this method using pig lungs for several years.

The woman is in stable condition and should be discharged in about three months.

The donor, who was in her 50s, was declared brain dead at Oshima Hospital, a prefectural institution in Amami, Kagoshima Prefecture, on Thursday.

“I am sincerely thankful for the donation of these precious lungs,” the recipient said in a statement. “If I get better, I would like to travel overseas and enjoy the scenery together with the donor.”

Okayama University Hospital has succeeded in various types of lung transplants. In 2013, the university successfully carried out the world’s first middle lobe transfer from a living donor — a mother — into her 3-year-old son.