A man from Illinois received a double-lung transplant after suffering from severe coronavirus infection. Surgeons at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago marked the procedure as the second time a COVID-19 patient needed new lungs in the U.S.
The man, in his 60s, tested positive for the novel coronavirus in late March. Doctors placed the patient on life support for more than three months before the double-lung transplant on July 4, ABC7 Chicago reported Friday.
“I’ve never seen any case like this,” Samuel Kim, thoracic surgeon at Northwestern Medicine who assisted in the double-lung transplant, told ABC7 Chicago. “His lung damage was among the worst I’ve ever seen.”
Kim described the patient’s lungs as almost like concrete because of the effects of COVID-19. A double-lung transplant commonly takes six to seven hours, but the Northwestern surgeons took nearly 10 hours because the coronavirus patient had severely damaged lungs and severe inflammation in his chest cavities.
The procedure follows the country’s first lung transplant on a COVID-19 patient also performed at Northwestern. The hospital in June provided the new organ to a woman in her 20s.
Kim said both patients had severely damaged lungs because of the coronavirus. Fortunately, their bodies have been responding well to the newly transplanted organs.
“Our first patient continues to recover at optimal pace,” Rade Tomic, a pulmonologist and medical director of the Lung Transplant Program, said. “Our second patient is already off the ventilator and is talking to his family. We’re optimistic that both patients will make a full recovery and return to their daily lives.”
Deaths linked to COVID-19 have been declining in the past weeks. However, doctors said those who recovered from the disease remain at risk of its potential long-term consequences.
Cook County Health Senior Medical Officer Kiran Joshi said the coronavirus infection is known for causing serious lung problems and in some cases these problems can become chronic. He called on the public to continue following safety measures, such as staying home, wearing a face mask and social distancing, to reduce the risk of contracting or spreading the novel coronavirus.