Lung-transplant technology saves patients with severe flu

Ontario hospital uses tool to give infected lungs a rest
Tools

Technology normally used with lung transplant patients has saved the lives of five flu patients with severe respiratory problems, reports University Health Network's Toronto General Hospital.

Extra Corporeal Lung Support systems essentially are artificial lungs that work outside the body, according to an announcement. Even when injured, the lungs have to keep working to keep the patient alive, it explains. Such machines take over the work of the lungs, allowing them to rest and heal, unlike traditional ventilators that can induce further injury to that created from pneumonia and flu.

Patients in serious lung failure were transferred in from other Ontario hospitals that had called for help and were treated in the intensive care unit, according to the hospital. Use of the machines requires expertise to avoid other problems such as clots, bleeding problems and infections.

The hospital reports that through use of the technology, the lungs of one transplant patient healed themselves, making a transplant unnecessary.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so far this year, has reported more than double the number of flu cases in the U.S. compared with last year. Boston and the state of New York have declared public health emergencies. Meanwhile, some hospitals haven enacted their surge plans to deal with the onslaught of patients, with others treating those cases in other locales to keep their emergency departments from being overwhelmed.

Dignity Health System in Ventura County, Calif., has even delayed layoffs at two of its St. John's hospitals by a month due to the flu season.

In an effort to limit the spread of flu, others are following the example of Pardee Hospital in North Carolina, which limits a patient's visitors to next of next of kin or his or her closest contacts.

Visitors must be 18 years or older at Rome Memorial Hospital in New York and must wear a mask and use hand sanitizer.

To learn more:
- read the announcement

Related Articles:
CDC: Hospitalizations high with flu activity
Flu spike prompts hospitals to enact surge plans, postpone layoffs
Spike in flu cases prompts visitor restrictions, ED crowding