EVLP clinical trial breathes new life into lung transplantation


Ex-Vivo Lung Perfusion has the potential to:
  • Double the amount of lungs available for transplantation
  • Improve the function of donated lungs once considered unusable
  • Reduce inflammation for lung recipientsEVLPlung
  • Lower the chances of organ rejection
Our lungs are delicate. Protected within a fortress of ribs, fine branches of bronchi and bronchioles form an inverted tree leafed by alveoli, all surrounded by soft, spongy tissue.

It’s this fragility that makes lungs so difficult to transplant. Less than 30 percent of all lungs available for donation are ultimately usable. 

That’s why fewer than 2,000 lung transplants are performed in the United States each year – a troubling statistic if you or a loved one is among the 35 million Americans struggling with chronic lung disease.

But what if we could improve those odds? A new clinical trial at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center may do just that.

Ohio State's Comprehensive Transplant Center is the first in Ohio to test a new process called Ex-Vivo Lung Perfusion (EVLP), a mechanical system that respirates, warms, nourishes and repairs donor lungs outside of a human body, improving the likelihood that they can be used in a lifesaving transplant.


Donor lungs are placed inside a sterile, dome-shaped incubator that maintains normal body temperature while the organs are treated with a nutrient- and oxygen-rich antibiotic solution that repairs damage and removes excess water.

It’s a three-to-six-hour process that protects and preserves the lungs while doctors monitor their function, looking at indicators like oxygen exchange, airway pressure and lung compliance. If the lungs pass the test, they are immediately transplanted into a waiting patient.


"A game-changer for lung transplantation"

EVLPteamWhy is this technology so exciting? Because EVLP can rescue lungs once considered unusable for transplant, says Bryan Whitson, MD, PhD cardiothoracic surgeon and director of the thoracic transplantation program at Ohio State.

"Having the ability to more adequately evaluate potential donor organs and to even repair or resuscitate them is a game changer for lung transplantation," says Dr. Whitson. 

"In addition to being able to rescue lungs not traditionally transplantable, EVLP provides us with an opportunity to begin to more actively and routinely repair organs in the next couple of years." 

Whitson is the principal investigator of the EVLP clinical trial at Ohio State, one of only 20 centers certified to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of EVLP through the Novel Lung Trial.

EVLP has the potential to double the number of lungs available for transplant. In fact, 10 Ohio State patients have already received successful transplants using EVLP.
“If all goes well, our hope is to eventually increase recovery of suitable lungs enough to where we could essentially take all those anxiously awaiting a lifesaving lung transplant off the waiting list,” says Whitson.



Watch: Patient follow-up. One year after EVLP surgery: