First Ever Double Lung Transplant Between COVID Patients Performed in Chicago

Northwestern Medicine said it's the first known procedure to be performed in the world

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Chicago doctors completed one of the first known double lung transplants from one former coronavirus patient to another.

The procedure not only made history, according to Chicago doctors, but is also opening doors for donors and recipients as demand increases because of the pandemic.

The history-making procedure lasted about 10 hours, almost double that of a traditional lung transplant.

The recipient was an Illinois man in his 60s, who had a severe COVID-19 infection, according to Northwestern Medicine.

Dr. Ankit Bharat, Northwestern Medicine’s director of the lung transplant program, said the patient was on ECMO life support for four months and on a ventilator since May 2020.

He said the lungs came from a donor who had a mild case of COVID-19, but died from an unrelated matter.

Visual exams, biopsies and function tests were performed on the donor’s lungs before the lungs were accepted.

“We want to make sure two questions have been answered: first, there’s no more virus in the lung we’re accepting for transplant, and secondly, there’s no permanent damage,” said Bharat.

Dr. Rafael Garza-Castillon of Northwestern Medicine said this procedure could open doors for many other COVID-19 patients who’ve had lung damage and are on a waiting list during the pandemic.

“This opens the door for more organ donation. We can avoid rejecting these lungs just because a patient had COVID in the past,” said Garza-Castillon.

The recipient of the lungs is recovering from the procedure, health care workers said.

Doctors said he’s in good condition, and may be able to speak publicly in the near future.

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