A young woman whose lungs were destroyed by the coronavirus received a double-lung transplant last week at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, the hospital reported on Thursday, the first known lung transplant in the United States for Covid-19.
The 10-hour surgery was more difficult and took several hours longer than most lung transplants because inflammation from the disease had left the woman’s lungs “completely plastered to tissue around them, the heart, the chest wall and diaphragm,” said Dr. Ankit Bharat, the chief of thoracic surgery and surgical director of the lung transplant program at Northwestern Medicine, which includes Northwestern Memorial Hospital, in an interview.
He said the patient, a woman in her 20s who had no serious underlying medical conditions, was recovering well: “She’s awake, she’s smiling, she FaceTimed with her family.”
But she has a long way to go. She is still on a ventilator because even though the transplanted lungs are healthy, her long illness has left her chest muscles too weak for breathing, and it will take time for her strength to return.
The transplant was her only chance for survival, Dr. Bharat said. His team wanted other transplant centers to know that the operation could save some desperately ill Covid-19 patients.
He said that other medical centers had been calling to find out about the operation and that some wanted to send Covid-19 patients to Northwestern for lung transplants.
“I want to emphasize that this is not for every Covid patient,” Dr. Bharat said. “We are talking about patients who are relatively young, very functional, with minimal to no comorbid conditions, with permanent lung damage who can’t get off the ventilator.”
For such patients, he said, the news of a successful transplant “absolutely could start something.”
New York Times
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