Two lungs made from one: Pioneering surgery may help donor shortage, writes Liz Hunt

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The Independent Online
FRENCH doctors are claiming a world first for an operation in which a lung was removed from one patient, split in half and transplanted into a woman, providing her with two new lungs.

The 40-year-old woman, known only as Marie, received the pioneering transplant two weeks ago and is now about to leave hospital.

Jean-Paul Couetil, the surgeon who performed the operation at the Broussais Hospital in Paris, said the technique could be used to create new lungs for children and teenagers with cystic fibrosis, who are at a disadvantage in transplantation because they need small lungs.

He told French radio yesterday that the technique could off- set the acute shortage of donor lungs for this group. 'With two adult lungs, it will be possible to make four small ones and operate on two children,' Mr Couetil said.

'To date the idea had been to cut a lung down to size in order to transplant it into a child. We tried to go further and take an adult's lung and turn it into two for a smaller individual.' Earlier this year an American girl with cystic fibrosis received part of her father's lung.

The donor for the French transplant, who was in an irreversible coma after a road accident, was nearly double the weight of the woman, who was suffering from severe asthma and pulmonary fibrosis, which causes shrinkage of the lungs and extreme breathlessness. She had been confined to bed for 18 months before the operation.

The 10-hour operation, known as bi-pulmonary partition, involved surgical separation of the upper and lower lobes of the donor's healthy left lung and transplantation to the woman's thoracic cavity. Surgeons then had to reconstruct some of the arteries, veins and bronchi on one portion of the lung but 'beyond that it was a very simple operation', Mr Couetil said.

A spokesman for the British Thoracic Society said last night that the operation 'appeared to be an innovative development which could effectively increase the number of recipients who could benefit from the very restricted number of donor lungs available each year'.