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Woman With Severe COVID-19 Receives Double-Lung Transplant

Following infection, Hispanic woman in her 20s suffered irreversible lung damage

doctor Bharat during surgery
Dr. Bharat performs operation Photo: Northwestern Memorial Hospital

THURSDAY, June 11, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- A young COVID-19 survivor received a double-lung transplant to save her life in what is 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. "A lung transplant was her only chance for survival," Ankit Bharat, M.D., surgical director of the Northwestern Medicine lung transplant program, said in a Northwestern news release. "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."

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 Beth Malsin, M.D., 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."

The transplant was performed 48 hours after the patient was listed for a double-lung transplant. Rade Tomic, M.D., medical director of the Northwestern lung transplant program, 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 that "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."

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