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Woman With Severe COVID-19 Gets Life Saving Double-Lung Transplant

THURSDAY, June 11, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- A young COVID-19 survivor received a double-lung transplant to save her life in what's believed to be the first such surgery in the United States, Northwestern Medicine doctors report.

Following her infection, the Hispanic woman in her 20s suffered irreversible lung damage and had to be put on a life-support machine that does the work of the heart and lungs.

"A lung transplant was her only chance for survival," said Dr. Ankit Bharat, surgical director of Northwestern Medicine's lung transplant program.

"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 centers 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 patient another option for survival," Bharat said in a Northwestern news release.

Before the patient could be put on the transplant wait-list, she had to test negative for COVID-19.

"For many days, she was the sickest person in the COVID ICU -- and possibly the entire hospital," said Dr. Beth Malsin, a pulmonary and critical care specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

"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," Malsin said. "One of the most exciting times was when the first coronavirus test came back negative and we had the first sign she may have cleared the virus to become eligible for a life-saving transplant."

The transplant was performed 48 hours after the patient was listed for a double-lung transplant.

Dr. Rade Tomic is medical director of Northwestern's lung transplant program. He said, "How did a healthy woman in her 20s get to this point? There's still so much we have yet to learn about COVID-19. Why are some cases worse than others? The multidisciplinary research team at Northwestern Medicine is trying to find out."

Tomic added, "While this young woman still has a long and potentially risky road to recovery, given how sick she was with multiorgan dysfunction for weeks preceding the transplant, we hope she will make a full recovery."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19.

SOURCE: Northwestern Medicine, news release, June 11, 2020

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