Even if the new coronavirus treatment can effectively neutralize the pathogen, the lungs of severe patients with covid-19 may be seriously damaged. A young woman needs a double lung transplant after fighting covid-19 in intensive care for two months.A team at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago performed a double lung transplant for the patient, the first in the United States for survivors of covid-19.
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In the United States, a woman in her 20s survived weeks of ventilator-based struggles with covid-19. But she lost the function of both lungs in the process, because the two lungs were seriously damaged in the fight against the virus, so that the patient's life was in danger. The only way to save her life was to have a double lung transplant, which was done by doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. The first such operation for a covid-19 patient was successful, but the patient was not out of danger. She still has a long way to go to recover, and the next obstacle is her body to receive new lungs.
Doctors used a ventilator and ECMO to treat the patient in intensive care for two months. The latter aims to remove carbon dioxide from the blood and replace it with oxygen, a gas exchange that occurs in the lungs. According to NPR, she cleared the virus from her body, but her condition is still serious. By early June, she had irreversible changes in her lungs and signs of kidney and liver failure.
"Because of covid, she formed these cavities in her lungs, which have been infected, and these bacteria are driving sepsis," Dr. Ankit Bharat, director of thoracic surgery at Northwestern University, told NPR. The following image shows the patient's chest X-ray, which reveals the presence of abnormal cavities (darker areas), as well as a damaged lung in the patient.
In general, her condition is stable and other organs have recovered completely after transplantation. However, she is still very weak, unable to stand on her own or breathe deeply.
For survivors of covid-19, lung transplantation may be a solution. Foreign media reported a similar case in Vietnam. However, not all covid-19 patients with complications are eligible for transplantation. As the report explains, patients who are likely to develop severe illness are either older or have pre-existing conditions. Therefore, they are not eligible for transplantation. Then there is the issue of availability, because there may not be enough lungs to meet the increased demand. According to doctors, even the lungs received by patients may not be up to the standard, and the northwest team spent two and a half days repairing them to "have a special transplant quality.".
The northwest Memorial Hospital team has contacted centers in California, New York and Texas to serve other patients.