A Japanese woman whose lungs were severely damaged by Covid-19 has received what doctors say is the world’s first lung transplant from living donors to a recovered coronavirus patient.
Kyoto University Hospital said the woman underwent an 11-hour operation by a 30-strong medical team on Wednesday to transplant lung tissue from her husband and son.
Covid-19 is known to cause severe lung damage in some patients, and people around the world – including the United States – have received lung transplants as part of their recovery from the disease.
But the Kyoto hospital said this case was the first in which lung tissue had been transplanted from living donors to a Covid-19 patient.
Dr. Hiroshi Date, a thoracic surgeon at the hospital who led the operation, said it gave hope to patients suffering from severe lung damage from Covid-19.
“We demonstrated that we now have an option of lung transplants (from living donors),” he said at a Thursday news conference.
The patient, identified only as a woman from Japan’s western region of Kansai, contracted Covid-19 late last year, and spent months on a life support machine that worked as an artificial lung, according to Kyoto University Hospital.
Covid-19 caused so much damage to her lungs they were no longer functional, and she required a lung transplant to live.
The woman’s husband and son offered to donate parts of their lungs. Transplants from brain-dead donors are still rare in Japan, and live donors are considered a better option, according to the hospital’s statement.
The husband and son are in a stable condition and the woman remains in intensive care. She’s expected to be able to leave the hospital in about two months, according to the hospital.
In June last year, US surgeons performed a successful double lung transplant on a Covid-19 patient – believed to be the first such operation on a coronavirus patient in the country.
Last month, US surgeons completed a “Covid to Covid” double lung transplant, using lungs from a donor who recovered from Covid-19, only to die from another cause, for a patient in his 60s whose lungs were damaged by the disease.
A study released earlier this year of more than 1,700 patients treated in the Chinese city of Wuhan – ground zero of the pandemic – found that X-rays of severely ill patients showed evidence of lung damage months after their infection.