Lung transplantation: history of the procedure

Lung transplantation is that delicate surgical procedure that involves the replacement of one or both of the original lungs, in people with late-stage lung disease and no longer treatable in any other way.

To be more precise, the main pathological conditions that could make lung transplantation indispensable are: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ( COPD ), idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, idiopathic pulmonary hypertension, sarcoidosis and deficit of alpha 1-antitrypsin .

The replacement of the diseased lungs or, obviously, takes place with similar healthy elements and the collection can be performed either by recently dead donors or by living donors.

As for the history of the procedure, the first transplant experiments began around the 1940s and the subsequent studies went on for about twenty years. Two of the pioneers of animal testing were Vladimir Demikhov and Henry Metras .

Thus, the first human lung transplant was performed by Dr. James Hard, back in June 11, 1963, at the Mississippi University Hospital. The operation involved only one lung and the patient - a convicted murderer named John Richard Russell - survived for only 18 days.

Since then until the discovery of an effective immunosuppressant such as cyclosporine (ie late 1970s, early 1980s), the various transplants that were performed failed due to rejection and a backward surgical approach.

With the advent of cyclosporine and with the progress of surgery, the prognosis for lung transplant recipients has been gradually improving.

The first successful intervention took place in 1981 and, to accomplish this, was Dr. Bruce Reitz of Stanford University . The patient - who was also transplanted from the heart during the same session - was a woman with idiopathic pulmonary hypertension.

Subsequently, Dr. Joel Cooper, of Toronto, realized:

  • In 1983, the first long-term transplant of only one lung.
  • In 1986, the first long-term transplant of both lungs.
  • In 1988, the first long-term transplant of both lungs on a patient with cystic fibrosis.


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