Patients preparing for a lung transplant often end up bedridden for extended periods of time while awaiting surgery. Because poorly functioning lungs have to be continuously assisted by extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machines, mobility for the patient flies out the window. This is not only a matter of great discomfort, but lack of movement prior to surgery contributes to worse outcomes for patients that should really be ambulatory instead.
Now a collaboration of researchers headed by a team from University of Pittsburgh is developing an artificial lung and blood pump that is small and light enough to wear for up to three months.
“Our wearable lung will be designed to get patients up and moving within the hospital setting, which is important for both patient recovery and improving a patient’s status prior to a lung transplant,” said principal investigator William J. Federspiel, William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering and director of the Medical Devices Laboratory within the Pitt-UPMC McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
The PAAL device will complement recent efforts by the University of Maryland (which developed a wearable artificial pump-lung) by potentially improving the efficiency of the transfer of oxygen and carbon dioxide and increasing biocompatibility, Federspiel explained.