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Dublin: 10°C Saturday 27 February 2021

20-year-old student receives Ireland's first ever double lung transplant of its kind

The type of transplant involves reconditioning donor lungs outside of the body before they are transplanted.

Leigh Bagnell and surgeon Karen Redmond
Leigh Bagnell and surgeon Karen Redmond
Image: Sasko Lazarov

A 20-YEAR-old student has received Ireland’s first ever double-lung transplant of its kind.

The operation was the first ever ex-vivo lung perfusion transplantation (EVLP) performed in Ireland. It took place at the Mater Hospital and was performed on make-up artistry student Leigh Bagnell, who suffers from cystic fibrosis.

The type of operation involves reconditioning donor lungs outside of the body before they are transplanted in order to improve the quality of the organ. This would make donor lungs that were previously unsuitable safe for transplant.

Leigh said that since receiving the lungs she had felt “absolutely fantastic” and that she was “forever indebted” to the surgeons who had performed the operation.

“It was only two years ago I was forced to drop out my college course and was on full time oxygen,” she said.

Fast forward post-surgery and I am now off oxygen and fully intend on returning to college in September to study make-up artistry.
It really has given me a new life.

“Significant milestone”

Commenting on the operation, consultant thoracic and lung transplant surgeon at the Mater, Karen Redmond, said that the announcement was a “hugely significant milestone”.

“The practice of Ex-Vivo Lung Perfusion to recondition lungs is still in its infancy,” she said.

However going forward [it] has the potential to significantly increase the availability of donor lungs for transplantation in Ireland.

Redmond said that Ireland had one of the highest incidences if cystic fibrosis per head in the world and a shortage of viable lungs available compared to people needing them.

This first successful transplantation using EVLP is a huge step forward for both the treatment of CF and the potential of the lung transplant programme in Ireland.

The conversion rate of lungs that are successfully reconditioned and transplanted post EVLP is at least 50%, which can greatly increase the transplant donor pool.

The operation

The EVLP process takes four hours to complete.

The lungs are maintained at body temperature throughout and a bloodless fluid known as STEEN solution is ran through them.

This fluid supplemented with antibiotics and blood thinners clears the blood vessels, removes toxins and blood clots and restores the appropriate balance of fluid within the lung before it is transplanted.

Redmond said that with enough funding and resources more lung transplants like this should be able to be performed year on year going forward.

Read: ‘It isn’t like Face/Off’: The surgeon who performed this extreme face transplant explains how he did it

Read: Roscommon man who died tragically preparing for his mother’s funeral saved two lives with his organs

About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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