First Lung Transplant Performed on a COVID-19 Patient in Europe Deemed a Success

A COVID-19 patient received a life-saving lung transplant for the first time in Europe last week.
A 45-year-old woman is successfully recovering after becoming the first COVID-19 patient to receive a life-saving lung transplant in Europe last week. (Getty)

A COVID-19 patient, whose lungs were “damaged beyond repair,” shouldn’t have survived the devastating illness. But thanks to a “highly complicated” lung transplant last week, the 45-year-old patient is now on her way to recovery.

“This is the first time in Europe that a COVID-19 patient has been given a lung transplant in an otherwise hopeless situation,” said Walter Kleptko, who leads the Department of Surgery at the Medical University of Vienna. "We are very satisfied with the patient's condition, given the extremely difficult initial circumstances.”

The 45-year-old patient, from Carinthia, a southern Austrian state, contracted the coronavirus about eight weeks ago, and her health deteriorated in the time since, including severe complete respiratory failure, according to a statement by the hospital.. Even though she received a negative coronavirus test, her lungs were too far damaged for her to survive.

But her other organs were still determined to be functional, and doctors decided to undergo an urgent transplant.

"The transplant itself took place under extremely difficult circumstances, since the patient did not have an adequate blood platelet count and, since antibodies were also present, these first had to be removed by means of immune apheresis to prevent her from rejecting the organ," officials said. 

Even the logistics of acquiring the donor lungs, flown in from a neighboring country, were difficult to manage. “Even transportation of the lungs and preparation for the operation took place under difficult conditions, especially because of the necessary COVID-19 logistics and the associated protective measures, which all had to be observed,” Kleptko said. “The key to success is smooth and effective collaboration between the various professional groups, such as anesthesia, surgery, intensive care medicine, infectiology and many others."

But the “extremely complex and challenging case” was a success, and even though the patient is still under close observation, she is on the long road to recovery.

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