Cincinnati Children’s Performs Its First-Ever Lung Transplant

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center has successfully performed its first lung transplant.

The patient, 14 months old at the time of transplant, had lung disease caused by two genetic mutations. She arrived at Cincinnati Children’s last Aug., tiny and malnourished, having spent much of her young life in critical care with a breathing tube and on mechanical ventilation.

“While this was the first lung transplant at Cincinnati Children’s, our team has experience with more than 100 transplants,” says Marc Schecter, MD, medical director of the program. “What makes our program stand out is the multidisciplinary medical team dedicated full-time to the program and their ability to transplant infants as small as 11 pounds.”

The patient, Ghadah Alrashidi, and her family came to Cincinnati Children’s for transplant from Saudi Arabia. Ghadah was born Sept. 29, 2013, with interstitial lung disease – a term that refers to a group of rare lung disorders – caused by a genetic mutation in the ABCA3 gene, which in turn led to a surfactant deficiency. Surfactant is a complex substance in the lungs that allows the lungs to easily inflate and deflate. Surfactant also plays a role in defending the lungs from bacteria and viruses.

When Ghadah first came to Cincinnati Children’s at the age of 11 months she weighed 10 pounds. With a feeding tube, she was able to gain weight. The lung transplant team also decided to put in a tracheostomy tube to help Ghadah developmentally. She was added to the transplant list on Dec. 1 and received her new lungs on Dec. 10. Ghadah’s genetic mutation only affected her lungs. Her new lungs are free of the mutation, and thus the transplant, at least in theory, can be considered a cure for her disease.

“Cincinnati Children’s offered more than we ever could have expected,” says Faleh Alrashidi, Ghadah’s father. “Going from a ventilator to full recovery is something that I just can’t describe. I hope to see her at school. I hope to see her working. I hope to see her as a bride.”

Currently, only two hospitals in the United States perform more than 10 pediatric lung transplants a year. Cincinnati Children’s goal is to reach that level within three years. The program also will make it possible for the medical center to perform heart-lung transplants and other multiple organ transplants when needed. Dr. Schecter has participated in more than 90 pediatric lung transplants in his career. David Morales, MD, surgical director of the program, has been involved in more than 50 pediatric lung transplants.

Patients are considered for lung transplant when their disease cannot be significantly improved by either medical or surgical therapies and when there is a high chance of death. Many types of lung disease may lead to end-stage lung failure. In some cases, the disease may also severely affect the function of the heart. Failure of the lungs and/or heart will result in a poor quality of life and may limit a person’s life expectancy.

The most common indication for lung transplantation is cystic fibrosis, followed by pulmonary hypertension and interstitial lung disease.
Cincinnati Children’s has one of the nation’s largest programs for pulmonary disease, which was recently ranked No. 2 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. It also has extensive experience in pediatric organ transplantation, including more than 525 liver transplants, 580 kidney transplants, 90 heart transplants and 40 intestinal transplants.

The first successful lung transplant was performed in 1986. Since then, more than 4,000 lung transplant procedures have been reported to the Registry of the International Society of Heart and Lung Transplantation, which maintains worldwide statistics for heart, heart-lung and lung transplantation. This includes over 3,000 patients in the United States. Since 1988, there have been approximately 1,100 pediatric lung transplants performed in the U.S.

About Cincinnati Children’s

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center ranks third in the nation among all Honor Roll hospitals in U.S. News & World Report’s 2014 Best Children’s Hospitals. It is also ranked in the top 10 for all 10 pediatric specialties. Cincinnati Children’s, a non-profit organization, is one of the top three recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health, and a research and teaching affiliate of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. The medical center is internationally recognized for improving child health and transforming delivery of care through fully integrated, globally recognized research, education and innovation. Additional information can be found at Connect on the Cincinnati Children’s blog, via Facebook and on Twitter.

Contact Information

Jim Feuer, 513-636-4656