Chennai man spends 109 days on ECMO, ventilator, recovers sans lung transplant

After testing positive for COVID-19 in April end, Mudijja developed breathing difficulties before being referred to Rela Hospital.
For representational purposes (Photo | PTI)
For representational purposes (Photo | PTI)

CHENNAI: In a rare case, a Chennai man diagnosed with COVID-19 and resultant lung complications spent about 109 days on ECMO (Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation) and ventilator support and recovered without having to undergo a lung transplant, the city hospital which treated him said on Thursday.

Fifty six year-old Mudijja stepped out of the hospital as a healthy man today.

"He became a living miracle, as none in the country has ever recovered without a lung transplant after spending over 9 weeks with ECMO support. Further, the treatment and care at the hospital were such that Mr Mudijja did not require a lung transplant, even after 9 weeks of ECMO support," Rela Hospital, a multi-speciality quaternary care hospital at Chrompet, here, claimed.

After testing positive for COVID-19 in April end, Mudijja developed breathing difficulties before being referred to Rela Hospital.

A CT scan prior to his admission at Rela Hospital indicated moderate COVID-19 pneumonia.

His oxygen saturation level was at 92 percent in room air, when he was transferred to the hospital.

His condition deteriorated and he required 10 litres of oxygen per minute.

The heart and lung team led by Dr C Arumugam, senior consultant, heart and lung transplant surgeon, decided to move him into ECMO.

Despite the progress being minimal during the initial 4-5 weeks, the hospital continued the medicare, it said.

"ECMO, traditionally, has been used as an intermittent arrangement until lung transplantation. However, now this team has truly made it a life-saving procedure," Dr Mohamed Rela, the hospital chairman said.

Speaking to reporters here he said it had allowed critical patients a better opportunity to survive and get back to their normal life.

"It was an amazing outcome for the patient and his family," he added.

After almost 50 days into ECMO, Mudijja slowly started improving, with enhancing lung performance.

The clinical team decided to proceed with the treatment plan but without a transplant said Dr C Arumugam.

"On the 54th day of his ECMO support, the CT scan showed few areas of resolution and we gradually reduced the ECMO support. And after 62 days into ECMO, the patient came off ECMO completely."

"We witnessed a miracle in front of our eyes. We kept him on minimal ventilator support with tracheotomy for another two weeks and weaned him off the ventilator on 29 July, 2021," Dr Arumugam explained.

Soon, the patient was made to sit and walk and take regular normal feeds.

"Mr Mudijja is the only patient in the country to recover without lung transplant after being hooked up to an artificial lung ECMO for over 60 days," said Dr Arumugam.

With apprehensions of third Coronavirus wave and the public still to be fully vaccinated, Prof Rela felt that the ECMO machine will be a critical tool on which the healthcare fraternity shall depend upon in this uncertain times for the treatment of other life-threatening illnesses.

Meanwhile, MGM Healthcare, a super-specialty hospital here, announced that it has successfully treated a 32-year-old male COVID-infected patient who was on ECMO - a procedure that oxygenates a patient's blood outside the body - support for 72 days, making him another longest ECMO COVID-19 survivor in the country.

MGM Healthcare which runs one of the most comprehensive ECMO programmes in the country, has treated more than 200 patients on ECMO during the COVID times with lung transplantation wherever required.

In a release here, Dr K R Balakrishnan, Chairman-Cardiac Sciences Director, Institute of Heart and Lung Transplant & Mechanical Circulatory Support, MGM Healthcare said the patient from Chennai became critically ill after contracting COVID-19 on May 18 and was treated at another local hospital.

His lungs were severely damaged and he suffered from numerous other health issues after contracting the Coronavirus which includes ENT, bleeding, disseminated intravascular coagulation and episodes of seizure.

The patient even suffered from cardiac arrest during this time.

The patient was put on ECMO in the first week of June and underwent tracheostomy in the second week of June to stabilise his health condition, he said.

The patient was discharged recently.

The hospital further said that two young patients have recovered fully after being on ECMO support for over 62 days and have been discharged from the hospital recently.

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