November 28, 2023
In a noteworthy example of clinical innovation, cardiothoracic surgeon Ankit Bharat, MD, FACS, of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois, earlier this year utilized large breast implants as a life-saving measure for a patient whose lungs had failed due to a severe infection.
A combination of smoking, vaping, lack of flu vaccination, and an existing lung infection had led the patient to a critical situation wherein he required a double lung transplant; however, he was too sick for the procedure.
Dr. Bharat, Feinberg’s chief of thoracic surgery and Harold L. and Margaret N. Method Professor of Surgery, implemented a unique strategy. In response to the severe infection and the need to maintain blood flow without functioning lungs, the medical team inserted large implants into the patient’s chest cavity to stabilize the heart, acting as temporary placeholders that allowed for parts of an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine to circulate blood.
The patient’s damaged lungs were removed May 26, and after a pair of donor lungs became available the next day, they were inserted on May 28. Despite the heightened risks associated with multiple procedures and the use of a bespoke solution to keeping the heart in proper position, the patient has recovered well and left intensive care by September.
Dr. Bharat is known for performing successful double-lung transplants in difficult circumstances. He performed the first-known double-lung transplant on a COVID-19 patient in the US in June 2020 during the initial acute phase of the pandemic. Earlier in his career, Dr. Bharat received the 2016 ACS Jacobson Promising Investigator Award for his research into pathogenesis and importance of lung-restricted autoimmunity in allograft rejection.