Covid-19, eighteen year old saved from a record transplant at the Policlinico di Milano

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Italian success

The young man, without previous pathologies, reduced to death by the coronavirus. It is the first time in Europe for an operation of this type: a similar intervention in Austria on the same days

by Francesca Cerati

(Agf Creative)

The young man, without previous pathologies, reduced to death by the coronavirus. It is the first time in Europe for an operation of this type: a similar intervention in Austria on the same days

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Francesco is 18 years old, and he turned them just two weeks before the Covid-19 exploded in Italy. The pandemic literally changed his life: because even if it is young and perfectly healthy, the virus infected him and irreparably damaged his lungs, “Burning” any ability to breathe normally.

To save it was a record transplant performed at the Polyclinic in Milan, with a path that before today had only been attempted in China, where the spread of coronavirus began. Operational coordination was ensured by the National Transplant Center in synergy with the Lombardy Regional Transplant Center and the Northern Italy transplant program.

From healthy to very serious in four days
This story begins on March 2, when Francesco – tall, in good health, without any previous pathology – develops a high fever. It takes only four days for everything to precipitate: on March 6, he is hospitalized in the intensive care performed at the San Raffaele tensile structure in Milan due to the worsening of his condition, and only two days later he needs to be intubated. Meanwhile, the virus does not stop doing damage, and compromises the boy’s lungs so much that on 23 March the doctors of the San Raffaele Cardiac Surgery Intensive Care Unit must connect it to the Ecmo machine for extracorporeal circulation.

But even this is no longer enough, and the virus strikes even harder: its lungs have been irreparably compromised, there is no going back. In mid-April the first glimmer of hope arrives: in a confrontation with the experts of Thoracic Surgery and Lung Transplantation of the Polyclinic of Milan, directed by Mario Nosotti, it was decided to try one last resource, that of giving him new lungs. Something never attempted so far, if not in a few rare cases in China (and in a single case in Vienna, also performed last week), and which the doctors themselves call “a leap into the void”.

“Here, in addition to the technical skills – says Mario Nosotti, director of the School of Specialization in Thoracic Surgery at the University of Milan – I must emphasize the stubbornness and courage of the colleagues of the San Raffaele who, instead of surrendering, involved us in a solution never attempted before in the western world. Our experience is inspired by that of Professor Jing-Yu Chen of the Wuxi hospital in China, whom we personally know and with whom we discussed some technical aspects, since for obvious reasons he found himself facing the problem before us » .



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