Another transplant first for hospital

The Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH) staff put the hospital on the map once again by performing a bilateral lung transplant.

The hospital revived its lung-transplant programme on Monday December 11 with the first bilateral lung transplant performed there.

The patient, a 38-year-old woman with severe airflow obstruction and a respiratory viral infection, had both her lungs replaced with donor lungs, giving her a new lease on life.

The programme was revived after Dr Greg Callington completed a fellowship in lung-transplant medicine at St Vincent Hospital, in Sydney, Australia, and Dr Tim Pennal underwent training at AKH Hospital in Vienna, Austria.

This now makes Groote Schuur the only hospital in South Africa offering lung transplants to uninsured patients.

The only other one is private hospital Milpark Medicare in Johannesburg.

Dr Pennal performed the six-hour operation.

“There was no option for patients with end-stage lung disease,” said Dr Pennal. “So three years ago, we decided that we must do something about it. We have a moral responsibility as the transplant centre for the whole country.

“We got international training, and hopefully this will again establish us as the leaders in transplants.”

The lung is the last of the solid-organ transplants to gain traction because of the number of complications facing the procedure.

According to Dr Greg Calligaro, the lung has a surface area of about 70m2, which is about the size of half a tennis court. When transplanted, it simultaneously receives massive blood supply and is in contact with the outside environment which exposes it to bacteria, viruses and pathogens. So infection is much more common in lung transplants than in other organ transplants.

Other complications come with matching the donor and the recipient.

“Cape Town has the highest portion of emphysema in the world.

“A small number of those patients will require surgery, but patients on the transplant waiting list do better, they eat better because they have that option,” said Dr Calligaro.

Health MEC Dr Nomafrench Mbombo congratulated the team and said the hospital’s achievement came just days after it celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first heart transplant performed there.

“Our clinicians are never satisfied with the status quo but go over and above their call of duty to save the lives of our patients,” said Dr Mbombo.