Making more lungs available for transplant in BC
Vancouver, BC – Cheryl Deyalsingh is one of 40 BC residents waiting for a lung transplant. “It’s my only hope,” says Cheryl. “A transplant will give me a new lease on life.” While BC Transplant is making significant strides in encouraging BC residents to register as organ donors, technology is also playing a role in reducing wait times and increasing organ availability.
Vancouver Coastal Health and BC Transplant are embarking on a new program known as Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion that will result in even more suitable lungs available for transplant.
The Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion program utilizes a machine that allows lungs to live outside the body for up to 12 hours after retrieval. Lungs that might initially be rejected for transplant can be reassessed, repaired and reconditioned in a bubble-like machine.
The system continually pumps a bloodless solution containing oxygen, nutrients and proteins into injured donor lungs, mimicking a healthy human body. A ventilator inflates the lungs and maintains normal respiration during assessment and reconditioning. Lung improvements are monitored and a decision to transplant is then made.
“People who need lung transplants typically have no other options, so being able to utilize more of these priceless organs will save lives,” says Dr. John Yee, a lung transplant surgeon with Vancouver Coastal Health and Director of the BC Lung Transplant Program.
The Ex Vivo perfusion system is located at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH), which is the only hospital in BC that performs adult lung transplants. There were 50 double lung transplants performed in 2018. With Ex Vivo, that number is expected to increase to about 60 as more organs will be viable.
The BC Lung Transplant Program is one of four such programs in Canada and offers life-saving treatment for end-stage lung disease. BC Transplant believes that the Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion Program (EVLP) in partnership with the Provincial Lung Program at Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), will reduce deaths on the wait list and improve patient outcomes.
“We are constantly striving to save more lives and provide better care through innovation,” says Ed Ferre, Provincial Executive Director of BC Transplant. “The Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion Program offers hope to all those on the wait list.”
Cheryl Deyalsingh has been waiting for 13 months for a lung transplant, and is hoping suitable organs will be found soon. “I’m looking forward to caring for my grandson and being a whole person again.” says Cheryl.
Vancouver Coastal Health is responsible for the delivery of $3.3 billion in community, hospital and residential care to more than one million people in communities including Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola. VCH also provides specialized care and services for people throughout BC, and is the province’s hub of health care education and research.
Interview with Dr. John Yee
About BC Transplant
BC Transplant, a program of the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA), provides provincial oversight for all aspects or organ donation and transplantation in BC. BC's three transplant centres are BC Children's Hospital, St Paul's Hospital and Vancouver General Hospital. Transplant patients receive follow up care at the transplant centres or at one of eight regional clinics close to their home community. For more information, visit BC Transplant or follow us on Twitter @BC_Transplant.
Public Affairs Leader
Vancouver Coastal Health
Coordinator, Communications and Community Initiatives