Northwestern Hospital has successfully completed its first double-lung transplant on a coronavirus patient, the hospital confirmed.
The patient, a Hispanic woman in her 20s, recovered from the virus but suffered life-threatening damage to both lungs, requiring the procedure.
“A lung transplant was her only chance for survival,” said Ankit Bharat, MD, chief of thoracic surgery and surgical director of the Northwestern Medicine Lung Transplant Program.
Northwestern Hospital is one of the first health systems in the country to successfully perform a lung transplant on a patient recovering from COVID-19, according to a statement from the hospital. Dr. Bharat said he wants other transplant centers to know the procedure can be done safely while offering terminally ill coronavirus patients another option for survival.
Before the patient could get the procedure, she had to test negative for the virus. Doctors said she was the sickest person in the COVID ICU.
“There were so many times, day and night, our team had to react quickly to help her oxygenation and support her other organs to make sure they were healthy enough to support a transplant if and when the opportunity came,” said Dr. Beth Malsin, pulmonary and critical care specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Northwestern Hospital points to its highly regarded ECMO program that supported the patient while on the lung transplant wait list. ECMO is a treatment that uses an exterior pump to help circulate blood and oxygen through the body.
According to Northwestern Hospital, following lung transplantation, more than 85-90% of patients survive one year, and report complete independence in day-to-day life.
“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,” said Dr. Rade Tomic, a pulmonologist and medical director of the Lung Transplant Program.