US surgeons have performed a double-lung transplant on a patient whose lungs were irreparably damaged by COVID-19.
The patient, an Hispanic woman in her 20s, had spent six weeks in the COVID ICU on a ventilator and ECMO at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
Dr Ankit Bharat, chief of thoracic surgery and surgical director of the Northwestern Medicine Lung Transplant Program, said in a statement that the lung transplant was the patient’s only chance for survival.
“Due to the ability of Northwestern Medicine’s ECMO program to support patients with life-threatening lung failure for extended durations, the patient could get adequate time to clear the virus from her body, allowing the consideration of transplantation,” Dr Bharat said.
“We are one of the first health systems to successfully perform a lung transplant on a patient recovering from COVID-19.”
“We want other transplant centres to know that while the transplant procedure in these patients is quite technically challenging, it can be done safely, and it offers the terminally ill COVID-19 patients another option for survival.”
According to pulmonologist Dr Rade Tomic, medical director of Northwestern’s Lung Transplant Program, multidisciplinary research on COVID-19 was essential to identify why an otherwise healthy young woman should become so seriously ill with the infection.
“There’s still so much we have yet to learn about COVID-19. Why are some cases worse than others?” he said.
“While this young woman still has a long and potentially risky road to recovery given how sick she was with multi-organ dysfunction for weeks preceding the transplant, we hope she will make a full recovery.”