Bronchopleural fistulas are holes that lead from the large airways in the lungs to the membrane that lines the lungs, often caused by postoperative complications of lung removal, according to the study. The Clinic touts the procedure as a 1st for humans.
“Current management is not reliably successful. After exhausting therapeutic options, and with declining health of the patient, we moved toward a new approach. The protocol and approach were based on an ongoing trial investigating this method to treat anal fistulas in Crohn’s disease,” study lead author Dr. Dennis Wigle of the Mayo Clinic said in a press release.
According to the study, the patient remains asymptomatic over a year-and-a-half later, and has been able to resume activities of daily living.
“To our knowledge, this case represents the first in human report of surgically placed stem cells to repair a large, multiply recurrent bronchopleural fistula. The approach was well tolerated suggesting the potential for expanded use,” Dr. Wigle said in a prepared statement.
Though the patient in the case is doing well, researchers in the study are unsure how much the treatment itself contributed to the healing of the fistula, and are urging for further investigations into bronchopleural fistulas and the use of stem cells to treat them.