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UCSD Health surgeons perform first-of-its-kind lung transplant in San Diego County

Using donation after cardiac death
Posted at 4:23 PM, Jul 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-14 17:08:36-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- The average wait time for a lung transplant is six months, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. But a UC San Diego Health team believes they can cut that down drastically after successfully performing the first-of-its-kind surgery in San Diego County.

Imagine you are short of breath every moment of the day and night. You are one of up to 3,200 people in the United States with end-stage lung disease.

"The treatment for this is lung transplantation," Dr. Eugene Golts, Surgical Director of the UC San Diego lung transplantation team, said.

Traditionally, lung transplants are done by retrieving the organ from a donor who is pronounced brain dead. Last month, specialists at UC San Diego Health Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center in La Jolla performed the first two lung transplants in San Diego County from a donor whose heart had already stopped, known as "DCD" or donation after cardiac death.

"We now have this as one of the many options available to these patients, to shorten that time on the waitlist," Dr. Golts said.

To date, there have only been 63 DCD transplants performed in California, two of them now at UCSD.

After the donor is pronounced dead, the transplant team only has a few minutes to retrieve the organs. They then put the lung through a special machine to test its function, something they could not do traditionally.

"[This allows for] more potential lungs for our recipients, and to assure that the lungs are of excellent quality," Dr. Golts said.

Dr. Golts said the two recipients are recovering phenomenally. One of them is already out of the hospital. He and his team hope the success of this groundbreaking procedure gives others the hope that they too will soon breathe easily.

"This is a gift of life that either themselves are making or families who are grieving the loss of their loved ones [are making], knowing that their life can be extended to others," Dr. Kamyar Afshar, Medical Director of the UCSD lung transplantation team, said.

For more information on organ donation, CLICK HERE.