BBC News

New throat surgery 'a success'

image captionCiaran Finn-Lynch and his mother Colleen

Pioneering surgery to rebuild an 11-year-old boy's windpipe using his own stem cells has been hailed a success as he prepares to leave hospital.

Ciaran Finn-Lynch became the first child in the world to undergo the pioneering trachea transplant in March.

Ciaran, who is originally from Castleblayney, County Monaghan, is now due to return to his home in London.

Ciaran was born with Long Segment Tracheal Stenosis, which leaves sufferers with a very narrow windpipe.

Doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London took stem cells from his bone marrow and injected them into a donor windpipe.

They implanted the organ and allowed the stem cells to transform themselves in his own body.

By using his cells, doctors hoped to avoid the potential problem of Ciaran's immune system rejecting the organ.

Great Ormond Street revealed on Thursday that the transplant, carried out four weeks ago was considered a success after doctors proved the blood supply had returned to the trachea.

Ciaran's parents, Colleen and Paul, now hope to take him home for the first time since November.

They said the last few months had been a "rollercoaster" and paid tribute to the surgeons who saved their son.


He underwent major surgery to reconstruct his airways but, at the age of two-and-a-half, a metal stent used to hold his airway open eroded into his aorta, a major artery.

media captionProfessor Martin Birchall: "It could replace transplantation"

He went through more surgery, including two attempts to rebuild his airway, and finally left hospital after eight months.

Ciaran lived a full and active life until November last year when a stent again started to erode, causing a "massive bleed".

As options for Ciaran ran out, his specialists turned to stem cell treatment.

The surgery had been tried in Spain in 2008 on mother-of-two Claudia Castillo - the first person to receive a transplant organ created from stem cells - but Ciaran was to be the first child.

Ciaran was operated on in March, just four weeks after a donor trachea was found in Italy, and now doctors have confirmed his new windpipe is working well.

"We didn't have much choice when it came to the operation," his mother Colleen said.

"If Ciaran had one more bleed I don't think he would have made it."

She said they had "100% faith" in the transplant team, led by Great Ormond Street's Professor Martin Elliott.

She said Ciaran's recovery had been "up and down" but he kept his spirits up.

"Because it's so new, nobody knows what's ahead, or how long his full recovery is going to be, but we are on the right road now," she said.

Ciaran, who turned 11 last month, is looking forward to going home and is likely to return to school in September.

A keen drummer, he is most excited about being able to play in his band again, and even started practising with a lesson in the hospital's intensive care unit recently.

Prof Elliott said the transplant team was "delighted" Ciaran could go home.

"He is a wonderful boy who has become a great friend to us all, and he and his infinitely patient family have charmed us all," he said.

"His recovery has been complicated, as one might expect for a new procedure, and we have kept him under close surveillance, hence the length of time he has been here.

"It is wonderful to see him active, smiling and breathing normally. We are very proud of him."

He said Ciaran would need regular follow-ups to check on his progress and to learn what to expect for the next patient who may need the innovative therapy.

"The treatment offers hope to many whose major airways were previously considered untreatable or irreplaceable," Prof Elliott added.