Northwestern Memorial Hospital is believed to be the first U.S. facility to perform a life-saving double-lung transplant on a former COVID-19 patient.
The Chicago hospital today announced that the patient, a woman in her 20s, had the procedure this month after suffering irreversible damage to her lungs while recovering from the coronavirus.
The patient had spent six weeks in Northwestern's COVID intensive care unit on a ventilator and a machine that supports the heart and lungs, Northwestern Medicine said in a statement. She needed to test negative for the virus before doctors could put her on the waiting list for a transplant.
The average wait time is about three to six months, but it can be shorter or longer depending on a patient's condition.
"We are one of the first health systems to successfully perform a lung transplant on a patient recovering from COVID-19," Dr. Ankit Bharat, chief of thoracic surgery and surgical director of Northwestern's lung transplant program, said in the statement. "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 patients another option for survival."
Doctors are still learning about COVID, and it's unclear how a healthy woman in her 20s came to be the sickest person in the COVID ICU, Dr. Rade Tomic, a pulmonologist and medical director of Northwestern's lung transplant program, said in the statement.
Northwestern Memorial had performed 19 lung transplants as of May 31, according to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services data. The hospital performed 33 last year.
This article was originally published in Crain's Chicago Business.