Home > Media & news > University of Kentucky pioneers use of life-saving device

University of Kentucky pioneers use of life-saving device

POSTED BY CHERYL TRUMAN -  ON 7/31/11  — This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Ernie Gillispie might not understand the elaborate mechanics that got his body strong enough to withstand a double-lung transplant. They delight him nonetheless.

Gillispie could walk only a few feet in February. Now, the former coal miner and black lung sufferer from Pike County, who was thought too sick to be placed on the transplant list, can walk two miles at a time.


Gillispie, 68, is the first patient to undergo a process being pioneered at the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital that can save the lives of patients who previously would not have been healthy enough for lung transplants.

The technology raises life-saving possibilities for Kentuckians, where the Centers for Disease Control lists respiratory disease as the fourth leading cause of death, with 61.3 deaths per 100,000 citizens each year, well ahead of the national average. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the state, followed by cancer and stroke.

The underlying technology that helped bridge the time between black lung nearly killing Gillispie and a double-lung transplant is a long-used strategy called ECMO — extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. In this case, the treatment came with an extra twist that moves the medical field toward the day when such devices will be true mobile artificial lungs.

The enhanced ECMO device, implanted at UK, allowed Gillispie to walk and exercise, strengthening his body enough that a lung transplant became possible.

Gillispie was diagnosed with black lung in 2004. By the time he met UK transplant surgeon Charles Hoopes in February, Gillispie was using a wheelchair while Vanessia, his wife of nearly 34 years, shopped for a specially equipped vehicle to transport her husband.

"You lose every bit of your air," Gillispie said of the damage wrought by black lung. "It's like putting your hand over your mouth and trying to breathe through it." 

Click here to read the full article.

Source : www.kentucky.com

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