Delhi hospital uses rare element to save lungs of Covid patient


Doctors at the Artemis Hospital here used a rare element to save the lungs of a 47-year-old patient who was infected with Covid-19.

Kumari Ranjana, a professor of mathematics, was suffering from one of the worst forms of Covid complication involving abnormal presence of air in the chest, around the heart and tissues under the skin, due to leakage from the lungs.

She was treated using a rarely-used element called surfactant in the lungs.

“We artificially administered an element called pulmonary surfactant in the lungs of the patient. This element is naturally present in the lungs but gets denatured or destroyed due to Covid, causing the lungs to behave abnormally,” Aseem Ranjan Srivastava, Head, Paediatric Cardiac Surgery, Artemis Hospital, said in a statement here on Thursday.

Ranjana was admitted to the ICU as she was found to be suffering from a severe case of Covid-19 pneumonia and lungs that leaked air.

The chances of survival of Covid patients on mechanical ventilation, whose lungs are leaking air, are slim.

The team of doctors at Artemis put her on ExtraCorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO), which is akin to a heart-lung bypass machine used in open-heart surgery. ECMO pumps and oxygenates a patient’s blood outside the body, allowing the heart and lungs to rest.

However, after getting encouraging results with ECMO initially, things started to worsen again. At this juncture, the doctors even contemplated doing a lung transplant.

But Ranjana was not in a condition to undertake the journey to a transplant facility.

The doctors faced several challenges: Risk of bleeding, prevention of infection, and persistent leakage of air from the lungs.

Using pulmonary surfactant in the lungs led to a dramatic improvement in the patient’s condition. Ranjana remained on ECMO for a month before being brought back on ventilator.

It took Ranjana 98 days at the hospital to regain her strength to talk, sit up, eat and even walk with some support, the doctors said.

“This feels like a second birth for me. I had given up all hope,” Ranjana said.