Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Health

At Tampa General, a new tool changes the way doctors transplant organs

The ice-and-cooler method is giving way to a device that pumps blood, oxygen and nutrients into donor organs during transport.
John Nobel, a clinical perfusionist at Tampa General Hospital, winds up a power cord to one of the hospital's new Organ Care System machines. The devices work to keep donated organs functioning for longer periods of time. [Tampa General Hospital]
John Nobel, a clinical perfusionist at Tampa General Hospital, winds up a power cord to one of the hospital's new Organ Care System machines. The devices work to keep donated organs functioning for longer periods of time. [Tampa General Hospital]
Published Jan. 13

In most cases, the job of transporting donor organs is a dramatic event.

The heart or lung is placed in a cooler on ice and loaded into an ambulance or helicopter. Then the clock starts ticking — organs are viable for only a couple of hours outside of a body.

But a new system at Tampa General Hospital is helping to keep donor organs healthier for longer, likely increasing the number of transplants there this year.

The hospital is the first in the state to use the “Organ Care System,” which employs a special device to keep donor organs functioning as if they were still in a body. A donor heart will keep pumping blood. A lung will continue to breathe. Livers will produce bile, all while on the way to a patient in need.

RELATED: Tampa boy became a doctor, and saved her life. ‘I’m glad it was him.’

Tampa General first used the system on Oct. 22.

Dr. Kiran K. Dhanireddy [Tampa General Hospital]

“It keeps the organ at normal body temperature and perfuses it with blood, which basically means the organ is functioning normally for several hours during transportation,” said Dr. Kiran Dhanireddy, executive director of the hospital’s Advanced Organ Disease and Transplantation Institute.

“The standard way would be to cover the organ with preservation solution and put it on ice in a cooler,” he said. “But there is a certain amount of injury to the organ with the cold temperature and storage solution. Keeping the organ at body temperature is preferable.”

Only a handful of hospitals in the country are using the new system, which is manufactured by the medical device company TransMedics Inc. It relies on mobile “boxes” that are outfitted with wires, tubes and a touchscreen tablet. Blood, oxygen and nutrients are pumped into the organ, so there’s no need to preserve it, Dhanireddy said.

A look inside a new Organ Care Systems "box" being used at Tampa General Hospital to keep donated organs functioning longer until they are ready to be transplanted. The "plumbing" features bring needed blood, oxygen and nutrients to the organs. [Tampa General Hospital]

“The organs are connected to plumbing, essentially,” he said. “You can transport them a much farther distance this way. Typically, livers can be transported for 8 to 12 hours. But on the machine, some have gone for almost up to 24 hours.”

The tablet allows surgeons to monitor the health of the organs while en route to the hospital.

The method has been shown to reduce the chance of rejection in lung transplants. Tampa General conducted five liver perfusion transplants with the device as part of a clinical trial, Dhanireddy said.

Medical professionals also hope this method will cast a wider net for sorely needed donors. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 20 patients die a day due to a nationwide shortage of organs.

RELATED: Tampa General’s new ‘command center’ cuts delays, saving millions

The Organ Care Systems device manufactured by TransMedics, shown with a heart. [TransMedics Inc.]

Tampa General can accept donor organs from hospitals farther away using this new tool, and surgeons can use the machines to rehabilitate organs that, in the past, may not have been healthy enough for donation. For example, a patient who is on a ventilator in a hospital might develop fluid in the lungs as a side effect. But the Organ Care System can clear that up, making the organ suitable for transplantation.

Tampa General, one of the 10 busiest transplant centers in the nation, estimates the new device can help expand the donor pool by up to 30 percent.

The hospital has performed more than 10,000 transplant operations, including 585 in 2019 — the most in its history.

“We have one machine for each organ type,” Dhanireddy said. “It’s helping us save more lives, increase the number of transplants we do, and decrease the number of complications with organ function after transplants.”

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. “My body, my choice” was the rallying cry on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade in the state Capitol, where abortion rights activists decried a fast-tracked bill that would raise the bar for minors seeking abortions. (AP Photo/Aileen Perilla) [AILEEN PERILLA  |  AP]
    Abortion supporters worry about Florida’s move toward parental consent and what may follow.
  2. Staff move bio-waste containers past the entrance of the Wuhan Medical Treatment Center, where some infected with a new virus are being treated, in Wuhan, China, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. The number of cases of a new coronavirus from Wuhan has risen over 400 in China Chinese health authorities said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Dake Kang) [DAKE KANG  |  AP]
    On the eve of the Lunar New Year, transportation was shut down in at least 13 cities home to more than 36 million people.
  3. This Feb. 6, 2015, file photo shows a Measles, Mumps and Rubella, M-M-R vaccine on a countertop at a pediatrics clinic in Greenbrae, Calif. A study released this week has found that a 2016 California law intended to improve childhood vaccination rates had the greatest effect on high-risk areas where the rates were the lowest. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File) [ERIC RISBERG  |  AP]
    The case involves a man who recently traveled to South America.
  4. To accommodate the swelling numbers of aging baby boomers, experts say we will need to make transportation more readily available, build more affordable housing, modify homes and apartments to help seniors age in place, and create programs to bring young and old people together. [Times (2011)]
    “There’s never been a time like this,” one expert says. Solutions include more health aides, taming long-term care costs and just healthier living.
  5. Joseph Hernandez Hall is home to the University of Florida's chemistry department, where a faculty member recently resigned after officials discovered he failed to disclose his strong ties to China. While at UF, the faculty member also held positions at two Chinese universities, including vice president and dean. The faculty member was not named in a report obtained Tuesday from the Florida Legislature. [University of Florida]
    They also collected grant money from the U.S. government while never disclosing their outside work in China.
  6. Margaret Pruitt, today’s exercise model, is a real wonder woman.
  7. Travelers wear face masks as they sit in a waiting room at the Beijing West Railway Station in Beijing, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. A fourth person has died in an outbreak of a new coronavirus in China, authorities said Tuesday, as more places stepped up medical screening of travelers from the country as it enters its busiest travel period. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) [MARK SCHIEFELBEIN  |  AP]
    The possibility the virus can be transmitted between people increases the chances it could spread faster and more widely.
  8. A new report to the Florida Legislature details the investigation that led to the forced resignations of six Moffitt Cancer Center employees in December, including president and CEO Dr. Alan List. [Moffitt Cancer Center]
    The money came from the “Thousand Talents Program” and went to personal accounts set up in China.
  9. The C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center at Bay Pines VA Healthcare System. (Times | 2014)
    The chief justice dropped an ‘Okay, Boomer’ reference during oral arguments in the case of a pharmacist who accused the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System of age discrimination.
  10. Six of the 11 Pinellas County Head Start preschool centers found to have mold problems earlier this month are still closed. A few more could reopen next week, but some could be closed longer. [Google Maps]
    Five of the 11 affected locations have reopened, but hundreds of children can’t go back to their preschool yet.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement