A 33-year-old Seychelles woman, who was on oxygen therapy for the last five years due to cystic fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension, got a new lease of life after Mumbai doctors performed a complicated and complex bilateral lung transplantation.

The patient had a very rare congenital variation, where a single vein in her blood vessels connected her lungs to the heart. She experienced breathlessness and was rushed to a local hospital back in 2018 and had been on oxygen therapy since then. She was diagnosed to have cystic fibrosis, a condition which affects the lungs the most. As the disease progresses, people have shortness of breath, chronic cough, wheezing, digital clubbing, cyanosis and end up coughing up blood. Then they develop pulmonary heart disease that ultimately leads to a collapsed lung. To complicate matters, she was also detected with pulmonary hypertension (a type of high blood pressure impacting the arteries in the lungs and the right side of the heart). In such cases, one needs both heart and lung transplant as both organs are dysfunctional.

The woman was referred to the team at Global Hospitals, Mumbai, where she was registered for a bilateral lung transplant after undergoing several tests. Her treating doctor, Dr Samir Garde, Director of Pulmonology, Interventional Pulmonology and Lung Transplant said, “She came to us with severe breathlessness. At a young age, she was unable to do anything because of her clinical condition. Lung transplantation in such cases not only is life-saving but improves the quality of life dramatically. Lung transplantation is the most challenging transplant to manage as the organ is exposed to an external environment immediately after the surgery. Additionally, as the patient is of African origin, transplanting Indian lungs posed an additional immunological challenge.”

Dr Chandrashekhar Kulkarni, Senior Consultant CVTS and Lead Lung Transplant Surgeon at Global Hospital, mentioned that the transplant performed on December 18, 2022 was challenging as the patient had a congenital variation in her blood vessels connecting the lungs to the heart. “Normally each lung is connected to the upper chamber of the heart by two veins which are each around 1 to 1.5 cm in size. In our patient, we had a single vein of approximately 2 cm placed in an abnormal position, a congenital variation. The donor had standard two veins and the main challenge of the surgery was to conform the two veins to the single vein in such a way that the flow was not obstructed. A slight aberration and it could have led to immediate graft failure as both the site and size were a major deviation from the normal.”

“I am happy to stand on my feet again, walk and breathe freely now. Organ donation is a noble act and everyone should donate organs. I thank the family of the donor for saving my life,” said the patient.

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