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Medical miracle during COVID times – Asia’s first bilateral lung transplant on a COVID positive patient

Despite the challenges posed during these COVID-19 times, MGM Healthcare, a multi-specialty quaternary care hospital in the heart of the city, became the third hospital in the world to announce the successful completion of a critical bilateral lung transplant on a COVID-19 positive patient. This is Asia’s first known lung transplant on a COVID-19 positive patient and the second lung transplant in the hospital since the lockdown began.

The transplant was led by Dr. K. R. Balakrishnan, Chairman & Director of Cardiac Sciences and Director of the Heart and Lung Transplant Program at MGM Healthcare, and his team of transplant specialists including Dr. Suresh Rao, Dr. Srinath and Dr Apar Jindal.

The transplant was performed on a 48 year old gentleman from Delhi, who was suffering from severe lung infection with COVID-19.  His lungs were severely damaged due to COVID-19 related fibrosis. He developed COVID infection on 8th June 2020.  Only a small portion of the lungs was still functioning. As he became breathless and oxygen saturation came down he was put on ventilatory support on 20th June 2020.  His condition continued to be worsening in spite of ventilator support, he was airlifted to MGM Healthcare from Ghaziabad on 20th July 2020.  His lung condition continued to be worsening in spite of maximum ventilatory supportive care, and he was put on ECMO support on 25th July 2020 for more than one month. Such patients are difficult to manage even in well-equipped ICUs.

Commenting on the procedure, Dr. K. R. Balakrishnan said, “We were initially in a dilemma when his case was referred to us. But as doctors, we are taught to prioritise the patient’s overall health over anything else. Keeping this in mind, we decided to proceed with the surgery. Here I would like to commend and thank my team of doctors and the other support staff for taking up the challenge and boldly standing by the decision to go ahead with the transplant, without thinking about the risk to their own health and safety. We are happy for the patient as the transplanted lungs are working well.”

According to Dr. Suresh Rao, as the patient’s both transplanted lungs were working well, we removed the ECMO support.  Now his clinical condition is stable.  At the same time, we accepted the heart from the same donor to another patient who was waiting for a heart transplant, thereby giving a new lease of life to two people”.

Commenting on the patient’s condition, Dr. Apar Jindal said, “On 21st August 2020, we repeated his chest CT, but patient’s lungs were totally destroyed and had severe fibrosis.  Hence we went ahead with the bilateral lung transplant”

While the lockdown and the phased unlocks are a much-needed moves to limit the community’s chance of exposure to the Coronavirus, MGM believes that healthcaring must go on. The good news from a healthcare perspective is that despite the travel restrictions imposed by the Government, both at the Centre and State levels, medical contingency travel was never a problem if a patient and close family members followed the procedures laid down. It’s indeed a proud moment for MGM Healthcare…the long distance travel that the patient and his family decided to undertake despite the limitations is testimony to our expertise when it comes to transplants. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who played a role in ensuring that he reached us at the earliest for the next treatment steps to be expedited,” adds Dr. Prashanth Rajagopalan, Director, MGM Healthcare.

The transplant was performed on August 27, 2020. Post the transplant, the patient is doing fine in the Transplant ICU at MGM Healthcare.

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