Isothermic Boxes – crucial for transporting organs for surgery

Isothermic boxes are a far cry from the traditional means of transporting organs for surgery. The technology behind these boxes has evolved over the years in much the same way as the technology has which doctors make use of during life-saving surgeries.

Thousands of people around the world rely on Versapak in France for packaging for organ transportation daily to save the life of a loved one. From hearts to lungs, livers and even eyes are transported globally each day in preparation for surgeries which could mean someone may have a second chance at life.   

For years, the standard means of organ transportation was through the use of everyday picnic coolers. Picnic coolers were packed with ice before the donated organ was placed into it. While the method was very low-tech, it served its purpose. But, this method could only be used over short distances. In fact, this method has been used ever since the first heart transplant back in the 1960’s.

Through the ice-in-a-cooler method, transporters were able to slow down organ deterioration during the journey from the donor to the recipient. If used to transport a heart, the organ can only be placed in the cooler for four hours, in many cases, this left very little room for error. If the transporting vehicle was stuck in traffic, the heart could deteriorate to such a point where it could no longer be used. Additionally, if the donor-recipient was further than three hours travel time away, even by air, the organ would be rendered useless.

Staggeringly, in the US alone only just over 25 percent of donated hearts ever made it to their destination, the rest were discarded. This means that around 75 percent of organ recipients never received their organs. This resulted in many lives lost. Today, however, technological advancements in the organ transportation sector ensure that donated hearts are able to be preserved for up to 12 hours.

This is done through the use of specially designed light-weight preservation cases also known as isothermic boxes. These boxes can be customized to suit the needs of the organ which is being transported. For example, in the case of the transportation of a heart, the organ is connected to an intricate simulated environment rather than being placed on ice. The environment in the box is temperature controlled. Additionally, the heart is kept oxygenated and fed with life-sustaining nutrients.

In general, organs transported at lower temperatures are able to maintain a high rate of energy releasing phosphates which make them more suitable for transplantation. The ideal temperature at which to successfully transport organs is between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius. Interestingly, livers and kidneys have been preserved for anywhere from 24 to 36 hours.  The advancement in this technology has resulted in the number of successful organ transplants more than doubling worldwide.

Isothermic boxes have become a vital tool in the medical field which has helped hundreds and thousands of recipients receive their donated organs.

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