Surgeons at the Leuven university hospital have performed the world’s first successful lung transplant from a patient who had recovered from Covid-19.
The surgery involved taking both lungs from a 72-year-old woman who had been treated for a cerebral haemorrhage, and had been registered as a donor.
The woman had never smoked, but in April this year she had suffered from Covid-19 symptoms for a period of about two weeks. She was never screened for Covid because of testing policy at the time.
She went into self-isolation for two weeks, during which time her husband was admitted to hospital and died from confirmed Covid-19. When later she was admitted to hospital with bleeding on the brain, she was found to test negative for Covid, but had antibodies to show she had previously been infected.
“So far, to our knowledge, there have been no published reports of lung transplantation from a donor with previous COVID-19,” the surgeons write in a paper published yesterday in the journal The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.
Eight days after admission, her heart stopped and she was approved as a donor for transplant, according to her prior request.
The recipient, meanwhile, is 61 years old and suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). She had been waiting seven months for a double lung transplant.
COPD is a common degenerative disorder causing difficulty in breathing and cough. The most common cause is smoking.
The donor’s liver was also used for transplantation. The recipient was discharged from hospital 35 days after the operation.
“In contrast to several viral disease outbreaks in the past, such as Ebola, the 2003 SARS-CoV, West Nile virus, or pandemic influenza H1N1, which remained manageable and mostly limited geographically, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented in modern times,” the authors write. “In the future, more donors will have a history of SARS-CoV-2.”
“The transplant went smoothly and the lung recipient tested negative for the coronavirus afterwards,” lead surgeon Laurens Ceulemans told the VRT.
“There were no complications and after a month the patient was able to leave the hospital in good health. Three months after the operation, the patient is doing very well: the lung function is excellent and the CT scan shows no lung abnormalities.”