Surgeons have given a man suffering from a debilitating lung condition a new lease of life by using breast implants in an unprecedented procedure.
After Davey Bauer from Missouri caught the flu a few months ago, he developed a lung infection that was resistant to antibiotics.
He had a prolonged history of smoking and vaping.
A standard lung transplant would have been fruitless as Mr Bauer wouldn’t have survived the surgery if doctors replaced his pus-filled lungs with healthy ones straight away.
Instead, the 34-year-old was put on a ventilator in a medically induced coma to support his breathing, but his condition continued to deteriorate.
He was transferred to Northwestern Hospital in Chicago where surgeons undertook rare surgery on Mr Bauer.
They removed both of his lungs and used a life-support device called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) to keep him alive while the infection cleared from his bloodstream.
The problem now lay with the patient’s heart. Without the lungs as support, the organ would either move around or slip deeper into his chest cavity.
“Once we took the lungs out, we realised that now we’ve got to support the heart,” Mr Bauer’s surgeon, Dr Ankit Bharat, chief of thoracic surgery at the hospital, said.
The solution was a pair of Double-D breast implants.
“We were looking for the biggest thing that would fit in there in his chest cavity,” Dr Bharat added.
The implants kept Mr Bauer’s heart in place and his infection was soon cleared.
Two days later the props were removed and surgeons successfully transplanted healthy lungs from a donor into his body.
According to the hospital, it is the first time breast implants have been used in a double lung transplant.
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Commenting on the unusual procedure, Mr Bauer said: “I didn’t know much of it until after the fact, but I thought that was awesome and kind of funny.”
“I feel so blessed. It’s incredible,” he added. “I got a second chance at life.”
He was discharged from the hospital in September and is currently being monitored by his transplant team.
He is expected to make a full recovery.
Meanwhile, his partner, Susan Gore, was bewildered by the entire procedure.
“It still blows my mind that he didn’t have lungs in his body but he was still alive,” she said.
Keeping a patient alive without lungs is incredibly rare and requires a great deal of expertise, but it’s not entirely new, said Dr John Michael Reynolds, a transplant pulmonologist not involved in this surgery.
“They put these implants in, that’s the eye-grabbing thing,” he said. “But that’s a very minor aspect of what was done.”
His team at Duke University Hospital kept a patient with cystic fibrosis alive without any lungs using artificial oxygen support. He underwent a double lung transplant six days later and recovered.
And a baby girl from Brighton was the youngest person in the UK to receive a double lung transplant. Imogen Bolton was just five-and-a-half months old when she had the life-saving operation in 2016, and attended her first day of school in 2020.