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25 years of lung transplantation: "Second wind" from Vienna

(Vienna, 02-03-2015) In November 1989, the first lung transplantation was performed at the medical faculty of the University of Vienna. 25 years later, the Medical University of Vienna or the AKH Wien is one of the four world-leading centres for lung transplantation along with Hannover, Toronto and Cleveland. 120 patients annually receive their "second wind" from Vienna.

What makes the Vienna programme so unique? At the University Clinic for Surgery at the MedUni Wien / AKH Wien, all donated lungs from Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Greece, Cyprus, Rumania and Estonia are also transplanted, as these countries do not have transplant centres themselves. "Since we receive more lungs than we require, it is a win-win situation for all. For patients in Austria, for those affected in these countries and for the Eurotransplant region. The whole world is envious of us for this reason", says Walter Klepetko, who was appointed Head of the Lung Transplantation Programme of MedUni Wien and the AKH Wien and Head of the Clinical Department for Thoracic Surgery from the outset.

Around two thirds of the lungs transplanted in Vienna originate from the eight cooperating countries with a total of 63 million inhabitants. Thanks to the large quantity of donor lungs, it is also possible for the researchers at the MedUni Wien to process excellent studies and develop or apply new operation techniques. This in turn underpins the top position which the centre in Vienna has acquired worldwide.

Around four years ago, for example, an ex-vivo lung perfusion was applied for the first time at the Clinical Department for Thoracic Surgery at the MedUni Wien / AKH Wien. Austria is among the first countries in which this concept has been successfully employed. With the ex-vivo lung perfusion system, the lung can be accurately assessed and "repaired". Lungs which would previously not have been used for transplantation are connected to a ventilator and rinsed, after which they display in this system an impressive improvement in organ function, and can therefore be transplanted in an optimum condition.

With this and other current developments, including with regard to operation techniques and better possibilities for handling rejection, the indications which can be remedied through the use of a donor lung have also greatly expanded in the past years. COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and emphysema are the largest group at around 35 percent. Around 20 percent of those affected suffer from pulmonary fibrosis, a disease of the lung tissue, and 15 percent of these patients also suffer from cystic fibrosis, a congenital metabolic disorder, and pulmonary hypertension. In particular the application in case of cystic fibrosis has been one of the most important developments. Especially for young people, this represents an effective therapy in the advanced stages of this disease.

Five research clusters at the MedUni Wien
In total, five research clusters are established at the MedUni Wien. Here key areas are increasingly focussed on in terms of basic principle and clinical research at the MedUni Wien. The research clusters encompass medical imaging, cancer research/oncology, cardiovascular medicine, medical neurosciences and immunology. The content of this work lies within the subject area of the cluster for cardiovascular medicine.  

Date: 25 years of lung transplantation in Vienna
On Friday 6th March 2015, from 12-14 hours, a symposium entitled "25 Jahre Lungentransplantation in Wien – ein Beispiel für Europäische Zusammenarbeit" (25 years of lung transplantation in Vienna - an example of European cooperation) will be held in the auditorium centre at the MedUni Wien/AKH Wien (Auditorium 1, Level 7 in the AKH). MedUni Wien President Wolfgang Schütz and the interim Medical Director of the AKH Wien, Gabriela Kornek, will open the event, and speakers will include the Health Minister, Sabine Oberhauser, EU Commissioner, Johannes Hahn und the Vienna city councillor for health, Sonja Wehsely. Admission for interested parties is free of charge.

» Programm des Symposiums