New Artificial Lung Keeps Toddler Alive

ST. LOUIS, Aug. 26 (UPI) — A 2-year-old Missouri boy has become the first person in the United States to be kept alive by a new type of artificial lung, doctors say.

Medical officials at St. Louis Children’s Hospital say Owen Stark is alive thanks to the NovalungsLA artificial lung developed in Germany, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Wednesday.

Owen was brought to the hospital after collapsing at a local toy story, and doctors said his heart and lungs were shutting down.

He was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary hypertension, or high blood pressure in the lungs. The rare disease is almost unheard of in young children, doctors say.

Doctors said Owen would need a lung transplant, and put the boy on a heart-lung bypass machine, but the device can cause organ damage after extended use and leave a child ineligible for a transplant.

So the hospital petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to use the German-made artificial lung.

The machine is used in Europe and Canada but is not approved by the FDA for use in the United States.

But the FDA granted a “compassionate release use,” in effect special permission.

“I don’t think there’s any question it saved his life,” pediatric cardiologist Dr. Mark Grady said.

Doctors assumed the device would buy time while they waited for a lung to become available for a transplant, but say Owen’s lung function has improved so much he is no longer on the transplant list.

“He’s got the potential to be able to go home, which we didn’t think was even possible,” Grady said.

If Owen continues to improve, he could leave the hospital in about a month, Grady said.

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