World's first double-lung transplant for COVID-19 infection succeeds in China

By Xu Keyue Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/1 20:28:40 Last Updated: 2020/3/1 22:28:16

Medical worker conducts novel coronavirus nucleic acid detection at the Diagnostics Virology and Transformation Center of the Guangzhou KingMed Diagnostics Group Co., Ltd. in Guangzhou, south China's Guangdong Province, Feb. 18, 2020. Photo:Xinhua

A Chinese medical team successfully carried out the world's first double-lung transplant on Saturday for a patient who was infected with the COVID-19 virus, which is of great significance in reducing critical cases.

Chen Jingyu, a well-known expert in the lung transplant field and deputy head of the Wuxi People's Hospital, performed the five-hour operation with his team in East China's Jiangsu Province.

The COVID-19 patient has been awake since the surgery was finished, the patient's vital signs are stable, and the transplanted lungs function well, Chen told the Global Times on Sunday.

The patient, 59, was confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus on January 26. After endotracheal intubation, ECMO (extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation) treatment and pharmacotherapy, the patient repeatedly tested negative, but his lung functions were severely impaired and suffered irreversible damage. 

The transplanted lungs were donated by a non-local patient after brain death and transported to Wuxi by high-speed railway in seven hours.

"The next step is to closely observe the patient, explore the perioperative management of the patient, perform anti-rejection and anti-infection follow-up treatment, and summarize the treatment experience for such advanced COVID-19 infection cases," Chen said.

Chen noted several medical preconditions for COVID-19 patients to have a transplant operation: The patient's life is being maintained by a ventilator plus ECMO and the respiratory failure of both lungs is irreversible; the patient repeatedly tests negative for the nucleic acid; the functions of the patient's other organs are basically normal, and he or she can endure the transplant operation.

"Such an operation is very risky, and the medical personnel are required to carry out the operation in a negative pressure ward wearing protective suits all the time, which is challenging psychologically and physically," Chen noted.

As of Saturday midnight, there were 35,329 COVID-19 patients under treatment nationwide, with 7,365 in critical condition, 299 fewer than the previous day, according to statistics from the National Health Commission.

Newspaper headline: China lung transplant for COVID-19 patient world’s first

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