US doctors perform 1st COVID-19 double lung transplant

A woman in her 20s is currently recovering from a double lung transplant, needed after COVID-19 severely damaged her lungs. The woman, who has not been publicly identified, was treated by surgeons at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, and received the transplant on 5th June. This is thought to be the first case of a patient receiving a double lung transplant due to the effects of COVID-19.
Ankit Bharat, MD, chief of thoracic surgery and surgical director at the Northwestern Medicine Lung Transplant Program, said during a press conference that the woman is in “stable condition” and is “improving every day.” Dr. Bharat made it clear that the woman was seriously ill when she received the transplant, which replaced her lungs with donor lungs. “If she didn’t get the transplant, she would not be alive,” he said.
There are a lot of questions surrounding this groundbreaking procedure, including whether this may be a future treatment for other patients with severe forms of COVID-19.
Dr. Bharat stressed that the woman was really sick—for two months, she had been in the hospital’s intensive care unit, sedated on a ventilator and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine. Her health was rapidly declining. “She was starting to develop multi-organ failure from the result of the permanent damage that she had,” he said.
In order for doctors to consider her for the double lung transplant, the woman needed to test negative for COVID-19 ahead of the surgery. Once that happened, she was put on a transplant list and doctors obtained consent from the woman’s family for the 10-hour procedure.
While the woman who received the COVID-19 lung transplant is currently stable and doing well, she may have quite a long road ahead of her. Double lung transplant patients can expect to be in the hospital anywhere from a week to 21 days after surgery.
After surgery, the overall recovery time is about six months, and patients usually need to have regular checkups. They are also put on anti-rejection medication, so their body’s immune system doesn’t attack the new lungs. They’ll need to stay on the medication for the rest of their life, Dr. Nemeh says.
Dr. Panettieri points out that lung transplants aren’t perfect, though. “The five-year survival rate of a patient who undergoes a lung transplant is worse than those who have lung cancer—it’s less than 50 percent,” he says. “However, there are no other options.”