First-of-its-kind in Arizona: Docs perform breathing-lung transp - | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

First-of-its-kind in Arizona: Docs perform breathing-lung transplant

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St. Joseph's Hospital is bringing new technology to the valley. Doctors have performed Arizona’s first breathing lung transplant on a 53-year-old woman.

St. Joseph’s is one of only five hospitals in the nation using this new technology. It's bringing hope to patients who were waiting for a lung transplant, like Estelle Ellington, 53, from Hawaii.

"It was an uphill battle. She recovered very nicely and she's sitting in front of you now," says Henry Ellington, the patient's husband.

Lungs are usually preserved on ice, but with "lung in a box," organs continue to breathe during transport.

“One of the drawbacks is during that cold preservation period there’s really no blood flow or oxygenation that’s occurring within those lungs,” said Dr. Michael Smith, St. Joseph’s surgical director.

“A new technology has come along in which we take the lungs out of the body, we put them on a machine that basically profuses the lungs with blood and oxygenates them with a filling.”

Problems can arise before donated lungs make it into a new body because they're not functioning in a cold ice chest -- but this new technology is changing that.

"I have to remember that I'm breathing regular without the machines, so it is a big difference," says patient Estelle Ellington. She still has to wear a mask, but is doing well and she's expected to make a full recovery.

Doctors are still experimenting with this new technology to determine if this method of preserving the lungs is better for patients.

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