CLEVELAND – Hospitals across the country have reported a rise in lung transplants for patients with severe cases of COVID-19, and that’s created new challenges for doctors along the way.
“COVID-19 has really struck the transplant community in a very unique way, from the donor side of things to the recipient side of things. So we’ve had to think about the donors that we are taking to transplant. And for a while there, we thought donor activity would actually become an issue and that we wouldn’t have enough donors,” said Marie Budev, MD, medical director of lung transplantation for Cleveland Clinic.
Dr. Budev said COVID-19 can cause permanent lung damage due to the inflammatory response from the virus. Patients with that kind of damage are often on a ventilator or oxygen and are unable to recover on their own.
Rigorous testing is performed before a transplant. Dr. Budev said they not only want to make sure the organ is healthy, but that there are no signs of COVID-19 infection.
She said the other big concern is making sure the recipient doesn’t contract any illnesses after they’ve recovered. That’s why she continues to emphasize the importance of wearing a mask, social distancing, hand washing and getting vaccinated.
“If people would just get vaccinated, you could save your own life and in many cases, you could save somebody else’s life that you don’t even know you ended up saving because you would not be infected or be an a-symptomatic carrier. I just urge people listen to facts, listen to science, take the vaccine,” said Dr. Budev.
She said it’s important to think about becoming a donor if you haven’t already. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, there are more than 107,000 people who need a life-saving organ transplant in the United States.