Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion (ELVP) at Penn Transplant Institute

How do you make lungs that aren’t ready for transplantation, ready for transplantation? At Penn Medicine, we use ex vivo lung perfusion, an innovative therapy that infuses nutrients into lungs, optimizing them for use.

What is ex vivo lung perfusion?

Lung transplantation is the only life–saving therapy for patients with certain types of end–stage lung disease. However, the procedure has limited availability because not all donor lungs are safe for transplantation. This shortage of donor lungs results in the death of 20 percent of lung transplant candidates awaiting transplant.

Ex vivo lung perfusion (EVLP) is an innovative therapy applied to donor lungs outside of the body before transplantation that improves organ quality and makes lungs that were previously unsuitable safe for transplant. The ultimate goal of the Penn Lung Transplant Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion Program is to expand the pool donor lungs available and extend this life–saving therapy to more patients awaiting transplant.

Currently, EVLP is offered by a handful of centers in the world and is only available through a clinical trial in the United States. Led by lung transplant surgeon Edward Cantu, MD, Penn Medicine is one of 6 sites in the United States participating in this clinical trial, a testament to the high quality of research and patient care available at Penn.

How does ex vivo lung perfusion work?

The process involves a three- to four-hour period during which the donated lungs are placed inside a sterile plastic dome attached to a ventilator, pump and filters. The lungs are maintained at normal body temperature and treated with a bloodless solution that contains nutrients, proteins and oxygen. This can reverse lung injury and remove excess lung water.

During the process, lung function is evaluated continuously on several key indicators. Once determined to be suitable, the lungs are transplanted into a waiting patient.

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