New organ preservation technique could replace UW Solution

LaCrosse Tribune | David Wahlberg

Jeff Ethington, left, and Dr. Emre Arpali, center, of UW Hospital, prepare to load a donor liver preserved in a cooler with ice and cold solution into a vehicle after the organ arrives by plane at the Dane County Regional Airport. With them is Terry Cullen, a driver with the Nationwide Organ Recovery Service.

For decades, surgeons around the country have preserved organs in a cold solution as the organs are shipped in coolers to transplant recipients hundreds of miles away.

Developed at UW Hospital, the fluid is known simply as “UW Solution.”

Now, UW Hospital and other transplant centers are looking at a different way to keep organs healthy outside of the body: pumping them with blood at or just below body temperature.

The process, called warm perfusion, can keep hearts beating and lungs “breathing” while allowing doctors to assess and treat organs to make them last longer, studies suggest.

“Warm perfusion allows the organ to function as it normally would inside the body,” said Dr. Tony D’Alessandro, a transplant surgeon at UW Hospital, which has studied the method in hearts and plans to use it soon on livers.

“The ice age is over,” said Gail Frankle, transplant director at the University of Minnesota, which is using warm perfusion on lungs in a clinical trial.

Warm perfusion could enable transplants of organs that are discarded or not recovered today, including some from a procedure called donation after circulatory death, proponents say. It could extend the time organs can safely travel. Continue reading