An Interview on the First US Double Lung Transplant for COVID-19


How a Chicago-based surgeon managed an unprecedented procedure for young woman at the height of the pandemic.

An original version of this article was published by sister publication HCPLive.

The greatest headlines of coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) deal with big numbers—large-scale vaccination trials; massive production and distribution agreements; new testing, tracing, and prognostic projects that look to halve the ever-rising tally of new cases and mortality.

With an act that saved just one life, though, Ankit Bharat, MD, delivered a historic win for the state of COVID-19 care and capabilities.

In May, the chief of thoracic surgery and surgical director of the Northwestern Medicine Lung Transplant Program performed the first double lung transplant for a critically ill COVID-19 patient in the US.

The patient—a young, healthy Hispanic women—had little to not therapeutic options remaining as her lungs began to fail. Without precedence among his national peers and with intensive care cases skyrocketing in the Chicago area, Bharat’s team found a solution for her.

In this, the second ever episode of Lungcast from HCPLive® and the American Lung Association (ALA), Bharat talked with ALA Chief Medical Officer Al Rizzo, MD, about the groundbreaking procedure and its contribution to developing COVID-19 care and research.

He also gave perspective on the current and evolving role of thoracic surgery, the benefit of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) in his work, and the need for innovation in invasive lung care.

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