Vietnam decides on lung transplant for British Covid-19 patient

By Le Phuong   May 13, 2020 | 03:30 am PT
Vietnam decides on lung transplant for British Covid-19 patient
A doctor at HCMC Hospital for Tropical Diseases swap samples for Covid-19. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.
The Health Ministry decided Tuesday that a lung transplant was the only way to try and save a critically ill British Covid-19 patient.

Dr Nguyen Van Vinh Chau, Director of the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City, said computed tomography scan results showed that fibrosis has solidified both lungs of the 43-year-old man, leaving just 10 percent functional.

He said the patient would die if doctors suspend a life support machine called Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) that he has been on for 38 days. The machine involves pumping blood out of the body and to a heart-lung machine that removes carbon dioxide and sends oxygen-filled blood back.

The only way to save the British citizen, a Vietnam Airlines pilot, is to perform a lung transplant, Chau said. The decision was finalized Tuesday afternoon at a meeting between leading medical experts led by the Ministry of Health.

The professional council of medical experts has assigned the HCMC Hospital for Tropical Diseases to prepare the patient and sanitize him for the operation. When he is confirmed to be clear of the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19, he will be transferred to the Cho Ray Hospital in the city to prepare for the transplant.

The Ministry of Health has been seeking for a donor in the last few days. The tropical diseases hospital has been covering the patient's treatment cost so far, and it's not been revealed who will pay for the transplant.

China has performed similar transplant three Covid-19 patients who have since recovered, China's Global Times reported.

Vietnam performed its first lung transplant in 2017. A team of Hanoi and Japanese doctors performed the operation at Hanoi's 103 Military Hospital, saving a boy from lung fibrosis, a disease that causes respiratory failure.

The HCMC Hospital for Tropical Diseases said that at present, the British patient’s pulse and blood pressure was stable and he has been on tranquilizers.

He was earlier put on ventilator support for 20 days and also received blood filtration, antifungal treatment and pleural wash. Two days ago, he was tested again for Covid-19 and the results came out negative.

Last week, the health ministry had said a lung transplant was being considered for him, Vietnam’s most severe Covid-19 case. However, experts had subsequently said that the lungs were not damaged to the extent of requiring a transplant.

"Patient 91," as he was designated, was confirmed positive on March 18. The patient's condition worsened despite his young age. Doctors said he suffers from a blood clotting disorder and cytokine storm syndrome, an intense immune response where the immune system releases a lot of cytokines through the bloodstream, which works against the body.

His body has also been resistant to all types of domestic coagulant drugs and the health ministry has had to purchase drugs overseas for his treatment.

The pilot was the first case of a cluster related to the Buddha Bar and Grill in District 2 – which turned out to be HCMC’s biggest Covid-19 hotspot with 19 cases.

Vietnam recorded no new coronavirus cases Wednesday morning, keeping its tally at 288, including 36 active cases. The country has gone through 27 days without any infection caused by community transmission.

Vietnam has not recorded any Covid-19 death to date.

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