Background: More than 80% of donor lungs are potentially injured and therefore not considered suitable for transplantation. With the use of normothermic ex vivo lung perfusion (EVLP), the retrieved donor lung can be perfused in an ex vivo circuit, providing an opportunity to reassess its function before transplantation. In this study, we examined the feasibility of transplanting high-risk donor lungs that have undergone EVLP.
Methods: In this prospective, nonrandomized clinical trial, we subjected lungs considered to be high risk for transplantation to 4 hours of EVLP. High-risk donor lungs were defined by specific criteria, including pulmonary edema and a ratio of the partial pressure of arterial oxygen to the fraction of inspired oxygen (PO(2):FIO(2)) less than 300 mm Hg. Lungs with acceptable function were subsequently transplanted. Lungs that were transplanted without EVLP during the same period were used as controls. The primary end point was primary graft dysfunction 72 hours after transplantation. Secondary end points were 30-day mortality, bronchial complications, duration of mechanical ventilation, and length of stay in the intensive care unit and hospital.
Results: During the study period, 136 lungs were transplanted. Lungs from 23 donors met the inclusion criteria for EVLP; in 20 of these lungs, physiological function remained stable during EVLP and the median PO(2):FIO(2) ratio increased from 335 mm Hg in the donor lung to 414 and 443 mm Hg at 1 hour and 4 hours of perfusion, respectively (P<0.001). These 20 lungs were transplanted; the other 116 lungs constituted the control group. The incidence of primary graft dysfunction 72 hours after transplantation was 15% in the EVLP group and 30% in the control group (P=0.11). No significant differences were observed for any secondary end points, and no severe adverse events were directly attributable to EVLP.
Conclusions: Transplantation of high-risk donor lungs that were physiologically stable during 4 hours of ex vivo perfusion led to results similar to those obtained with conventionally selected lungs. (Funded by Vitrolife; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01190059.).