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LANDSTUHL, Germany — A team of doctors and nurses from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center used a revolutionary device during a recent medevac mission to save the life of a British soldier wounded in Afghanistan.
The 19-year-old soldier, whose name was not released, lost his right lung and suffered a damaged liver when he was shot July 25 near Camp Bastion, a British base in Helmand province. Within hours of getting the call, the LRMC Lung Rescue Team was bound for Afghanistan.
It took more than 200 pints of blood — and the use of a German-made device called the Novalung — to keep the soldier alive.
The Novalung works like a temporary lung by filtering out carbon dioxide from a patient’s blood and oxygenating it. To use the device, a physician reroutes blood flow from a patient’s major vessels through the box by tapping the femoral artery and vein in the upper thighs. As blood flows from one leg into the box, it passes through a filter that leeches off the carbon dioxide and infuses the cells with oxygen, mimicking the trade-off that should take place in the lungs. The blood then goes back into the system through the other leg, refreshed.
The Novalung is unlike other equipment or treatment used by the Lung Rescue Team because it has not yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Each time the team uses the device, it has to report it to the FDA.
Novalung is in the process of getting FDA approval.
“We are preparing for clinical trials to get it approved in the United States,” said Nicholas Strout, Novalung’s global vice president of sales and marketing. “It will confirm that this is safe and effective. The trials will probably start early next year and could take six to 12 months.”
Strout said he was on his way to the U.S. on Wednesday to meet with a company that conducts clinical trials. Novalungs have been used more than 5,000 times safely, he said.