Canadian-developed technology is revolutionizing lung transplant procedures by allowing the delicate organs to live for up to 21 hours outside the body, giving doctors and patients more time to prepare for life-saving transplants, according to a new study.

Invented at the Toronto General Hospital in 2008, the dome-like ex-vivo lung perfusion (EVLP) device (ex vivo means ‘outside the body’) is now being used in more than a dozen hospitals worldwide.

Lungs are fragile and more susceptible to injury than other donor organs, like hearts and livers. Today, only about 15 to 20 per cent of all donor lungs are used for transplants while about 20 per cent of patients needing lung transplants die while waiting for a donor. But thanks to the EVLP device, lung transplants at Toronto General Hospital have been boosted by 30 per cent.

The protective dome might be the only reason 31-year-old Adam Kingz of Beamsville, Ont. is still alive.

“I was pretty close to not being able to make it, too sick to even receive a transplant,” the father of two told CTV News.

Kingz had been waiting 364 days for a transplant as his lungs failed from disease. When donor lungs were finally available in 2014, doctors were able to store them for more than 12 hours in an EVLP device.

“It saved my life,” Kingz said. “It’s improved everything.”

Canadian researchers, writing in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal, report that by infusing donor lungs with oxygen and nutrients, EVLP devices can keep the organs viable for up to 21 hours instead of the standard six to eight, meaning that doctors can travel longer distances to receive organs and have more time to prepare for surgery and get patients to a hospital.

“The transplant of lungs are no longer urgent surgery and we can better plan for this,” Dr. Marcelo Cypel, a thoracic surgeon at the Toronto General Hospital, told CTV News.

The device can even take damaged donor lungs and restore them, with research showing that the restored organs work just as well as healthy donor lungs.

Kristopher Gibson, for example, was operated on a month ago. Gibson, 41, was given donor lungs would have been tossed into an incinerator in the past, but were restored with an EVLP device.

“I feel one hundred per cent better now and I can do anything,” Gibson told CTV News. “And I’m getting stronger every day.”

With a report from CTV News’ medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip