Women's Guild

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George E. Chaux, MD

Lung Transplants: The Gift of Breath

The Women’s Guild Lung Transplant Center at Cedars- Sinai proves that embracing risk, supported by evidence and experience, can result in significant rewards for patients.

The Center — a partner-ship of the Women’s Guild Lung Institute and the Cedars-Sinai Comprehensive Transplant Center — has earned a reputation for taking on high-risk patients other medical centers routinely turn down. They include people with rare respiratory conditions, heart-and-lung disease and a history of previous transplants, as well as patients older than typical candidates.

“We definitely are aggressive about taking care of very sick people, and we’ve had very good success,” says George E. Chaux, MD, Center medical director, who addressed a June 6 meeting of the Women’s Guild Board on transplant issues.

The oldest patient to undergo a lung transplant at Cedars- Sinai was 78, while the average age is about 65. At other centers nationwide, the average patient is in his or her 50s.

The Center is able to push the envelope because of its complete end-stage lung disease program and its collaborations with Cedars-Sinai experts in cardiovascular, infectious, and renal diseases. Each year, the Center handles about 20 transplants, a figure its leaders hope to double over the next several years.

Even after decades of progress, lung transplants represent some unique challenges. “The lung is the only organ we transplant that interacts with the outside world,” says Dr. Chaux, “and the only organ that doesn’t work by itself — people have to make it work.”

These realities make the lung more prone to infection and rejection after transplant. Ongoing research has produced new immunosuppressant agents and new insights to help prevent rejection.

Philanthropic support from Women’s Guild “allows us to expand our investigations and extend our services to patients who need financial assistance,” notes Dr. Chaux.

Center specialists have developed an expertise in extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a form of heart-lung bypass support, which gives patients time to recover from a transplant or to wait for a donor organ.

Lifesaving stories happen with the gift of new lungs. “We’ve seen patients who can’t walk from their bedroom to the bathroom without using oxygen now breathe on their own and enjoy true quality of life,” says Dr. Chaux.