The image, published by Northwestern Medicine, shows how the deadly virus ravaged his lungs.
The double transplant was performed at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
Doctors were left with questions about how such a young and seemingly healthy woman became so sick with the virus that mainly affected the elderly and vulnerable around the world.
They described the woman as “the sickest patient in the hospital” before she was rushed from life support to surgery.
According to the hospital, this is the first such double transplant in the United States as the country continues to fight the pandemic.
Surgeons have released the details of the case to show other doctors around the world that lung transplants may be a viable option for some desperately ill coronavirus patients.
The patient, described as a young Hispanic woman in her twenties, survived the procedure.
The hospital said she spent six weeks on an ICU life support machine when it became apparent that drastic intervention was needed.
She was kept alive with an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation system (ECMO) – also known as extracorporeal life support – which works as a replacement for the heart and lungs.
But by the beginning of this month, the patient’s lungs had become so badly damaged that it was decided that a transplant was her only option.
“A lung transplant was his only chance of survival,” said Ankit Bharat, chief of thoracic surgery and surgical director of the lung transplant program at Northwestern Medicine.
“For many days, she was the sickest person in the COVID intensive care unit – and possibly the entire hospital,” said Beth Malsin, pulmonary and intensive care specialist.
“There were so many times, day and night, that our team had to react quickly to help it get oxygenated and support its other organs to make sure they were healthy enough to support a transplant if and when the opportunity arose.
“One of the most exciting times was when the first coronavirus test came back negative and we had the first sign that she may have cleared the virus and become eligible for a vital transplant.”
Dr. Bharat said that through the use of ECMO, which supports patients with life-threatening pulmonary insufficiency for long periods, the patient has had time to clear the virus from her body.
While his body cleared the virus, his lungs were irreparably damaged.
Scientists are still working to understand Covid-19, but global data has shown that the elderly and the vulnerable with underlying diseases are most at risk.
However, authorities around the world have warned young people not to be complacent, as some have fallen seriously ill and even died from the virus.
The pulmonologist and medical director of the lung transplant program at Rade Tomic Hospital said, “How did a healthy woman in her twenties get there?
“There is still a lot to learn about COVID-19. Why are some cases worse than others? Northwestern Medicine’s multidisciplinary research team is trying to find out. “
Dr. Tomic added: “Although this young woman still has a long and potentially risky road to recovery given how sick she was with multi-organ dysfunction in the weeks leading up to the transplant, we hope she will recover completely. ”
Northwestern Medicine said most patients eligible for lung transplants depend on oxygen for the day.
They may have pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), other advanced lung diseases, and many need to be managed with a ventilator or I am ECMO.
After a lung transplant, more than 85 to 90 percent of patients survive a year and declare complete independence in everyday life, the hospital added.