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New lungs, new life

1 November 2010


A half-page article in the Mail on Sunday on 31 October 2010 highlights the revolutionary lung transplant surgery now available at Harefield Hospital.


The new minimally invasive lung transplantation differs from established lung transplantation because it doesn’t require surgeons to cut through the sternum to open the entire chest. Rather, the organs are replaced through incisions at the side of the rib cage, vastly reducing scarring and dramatically improving patients’ recovery times and long-term wellbeing. An additional benefit is that patients are not put on bypass during the surgery, which can take up to seven hours.


‘It is still a major operation,’ said Dr André Simon, consultant cardiac surgeon who helped developed the breakthrough technique. ‘But the sternum remains intact, meaning much less post-operative pain and the patient is able to breathe for themselves within hours, generally spending one night in intensive care, as opposed to several days.’


The usual recipients of a lung transplant are those with cystic fibrosis and emphysema, as well as those with sarcoidosis and pulmonary hypertension.


The article features Richard Burbedge, 30, a cystic fibrosis sufferer, who had been waiting for a transplant since January 2009. He underwent the new surgery in June, with a lung function just 15 per cent of a person his age.


‘The prospect of less pain and minimal scars was very appealing,’ he says.


Four months on, back at work and also raising funds for Harefield, Richard can still hardly believe his luck. ‘I can now walk and talk at the same time, drink a glass of water quickly and put my socks on without getting breathless. I can’t help but break into a huge smile every time something like that happens.’


In the year to March, 148 patients underwent lung transplants in the UK. This month there are 235 people on the waiting list.


Read a PDF of the full Mail on Sunday article here.


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