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First-ever dual heart-lung transplant on COVID-19 patient performed at Vanderbilt

por John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | October 16, 2020
Operating Room
Vanderbilt University Medical Center has performed the first dual heart-lung transplant on a COVID-19 patient
Vanderbilt University Medical Center performed last month what it claims is the first dual heart-lung transplant on a COVID-19 patient in the world.

The procedure was completed on a man with cardiomyopathy who contracted COVID-19 in June and underwent treatment. Although free of it by the time he underwent the procedure in September, the virus damaged the man’s lung and may have contributed further damage to his heart, say his doctors.

“The patient wasn’t infectious so no special equipment was used during the surgery,” Dr. Ashish Shah, M.D., professor and chair of Cardiac Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told HCB News.

Shah and his colleague, Dr. Matthew Bacchetta, M.D., MBA, associate professor of Thoracic Surgery, transplanted both lungs and the heart from the same donor, as is standard in dual organ transplants. The organs came from a donor infected with hepatitis C virus. This approach has significantly increased the availability of donor organs, and VUMC is one of the first centers to use such organs for a patient in need of heart and lung transplants.

The hospital’s heart and lung transplant teams worked together to prepare for the procedure, and were composed of pre- and post-transplant coordinators, organ procurement coordinators, preservationists, operating room staff, cardiologists, pulmonologists, and surgeons. They also worked with ICU staff following the completion of the procedure.

The dual heart-lung transplant was the first performed at VUMC since 2006. Dual heart-lung transplantation is rarely performed in the U.S. and typically done at high volume transplant centers like VUMC, which is home to the largest transplant program in the country by volume, and known for treating complex heart and lung conditions.

“I think the procedure will remain rare, but it’s worrisome that there may be long term effects of COVID-19 even past the initial infection,” said Shah.

The patient is currently recovering at VUMC where he is reported to be doing well.

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