Medicine & Health

Northwestern Medicine launches lung treatment center

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The Canning Thoracic Institute will work to provide groundbreaking research, clinical breakthroughs and high-quality care in the fields of thoracic surgery and respiratory medicine, Northwestern said.

“We want to create solutions for seemingly impossible problems and be the destination center for diseases of the lung and chest,” Dr. Ankit Bharat, chief of thoracic surgery at Northwestern Medicine and executive director of the Canning Thoracic Institute said in the statement. “Our team leads the nation in finding new ways to fight deadly respiratory conditions such as COVID-19, which is demonstrated through the historical milestone of pioneering the first COVID-19 double-lung transplant in the nation with the best clinical outcomes worldwide.” 

The vision for the institute’s work includes pursuing breakthrough ideas and treatments, such as lung bio-engineering and surgical innovations that would improve recovery and outcomes, the statement said.

“Our response to the pandemic demonstrated our strength as an international leader for innovation and breakthrough treatments,” Dean M. Harrison, president and CEO of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare said in the statement.

Northwestern Medicine’s more than 70 pulmonologists, thoracic surgeons and critical care providers are responsible for the nation’s first double-lung transplant on a COVID-19 patient, the first “COVID to COVID” double-lung transplant and the nation’s first robotic emphysema surgery.

Laura Garcia Aguinaga, one of four COVID-19 transplant patients to speak at a press conference today, expressed her gratitude at giving her a chance at life, when others had given up.

The Houston resident had been placed on a transplant list in Texas, then was taken off the list as too sick to be saved, Bharat said. Northwestern Medicine took her case in Aug. 2020 and she was given a double-lung transplant.

“I was in a coma in Houston and had no idea what was going on. … The next thing I knew I woke up in Chicago,” Aguinaga said.

“Dr. Bharat told me I had a 2% survival rate,” between being transported from Texas and getting the transplant, she said.

The health system also participates in a combined adult and pediatric cystic fibrosis program with Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, a specialized care partnership with the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab for patients with spinal cord injuries and in medical and surgical care for patients with pulmonary hypertension in partnership with the Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, the statement said.

This story first appeared in our sister publication, Crain’s Chicago Business.

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