Northwestern surgeons perform rare 'flipped organ' lung transplants

Surgeons at Chicago-based Northwestern Medicine have successfully performed double lung transplants on two patients with situs inversus, a rare condition in which patients' organs in the chest and abdomen organs are in a mirror image of their normal positions. 

Yahaira Vega, 27, underwent the transplant April 28. She was born with a rare disorder called primary ciliary dyskinesia, which affects the tiny hairlike structures that line a person's airways. Dennis Deer, 51, received his transplant May 22. He needed the transplant after developing interstitial lung disease.

"It's rare enough to perform a double-lung transplant on one patient with situs inversus, let alone two patients in less than a month at the same health system," Ankit Bharat, MD, chief of thoracic surgery and director of the Northwestern Medicine Canning Thoracic Institute, said in an Aug. 7 news release. 

The patients' reversed organs made the surgeries particularly challenging, Dr. Bharat said, as surgeons had to make technical modifications for the "normal" donor lungs to fit into each patient's chest cavity. 

Both patients are recovering well from the surgeries and have resumed their normal lives, the release said. 

The medical milestone builds on Northwestern's advancements in lung transplantation. In 2020, the health system became the first in the U.S. to complete a double lung transplant on a COVID-19 patient. 


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