Groote Schuur Hospital performs first ever bilateral sequential lung transplant | Western Cape Government


Groote Schuur Hospital performs first ever bilateral sequential lung transplant

14 December 2017

Groote Schuur Hospital performs first ever bilateral sequential lung transplant in the Western Cape and the first in the state sector nationally

Lung transplantation is an accepted modality of treatment for advanced stage lung disease, and since the early 1990s, more than 25,000 lung transplants have been performed at centres around the world. However, despite Groote Schuur Hospital’s (GSH) prestigious pedigree in organ transplantation, Lung transplantation was only attempted once at GSH 25 years ago (a unilateral lung transplant in 1993). Since then there have been significant advances in aspects of patient selection and improvements in the clinical management that have considerably improved outcomes. 

On 11 December 2017, 25 years later, GSH revived its lung transplant program by performing the first ever bilateral sequential lung transplant in the Western Cape and the first in the state sector nationally. Our patient, a 38-year-old woman with severe airflow obstruction secondary to childhood respiratory viral infection, is breathing comfortably now on her own with her new lungs, and so far all parameters look very promising.

In order to revive the program, two members of the staff were sent abroad to learn and upon finding a suitable donor, were part of the team that did the transplant. Dr Greg Calligaro (a specialist pulmonologist) completed a Fellowship in Lung Transplant Medicine at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, Australia, in 2016. It is one of the 10 high-volume lung transplant centres in the world and performs between 50 and 80 transplants per year.  Dr Tim Pennel (cardiothoracic surgeon) also underwent a period of training at AKH Hospital in Vienna, and went for several weeks to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney to consolidate the medical and surgical aspects of the programme.  Other members of the team such as Professor Johan Brink are experienced veterans of the cardiac transplantation programme at GSH, and have been involved in transplantation for decades.

This transplant would not have been possible without the donation of organs. The donor family also agreed to having the liver and both kidneys being transplanted, thereby helping another three patients, apart from the patient who received the lungs.

To our knowledge, there has been no other academic centre in the country or in the rest of Africa offering this therapy to uninsured patients, which comprise the vast majority of our population. It is therefore a regional and national priority.  There are many patients attending highly specialized clinics at GSH with lung diseases which are leading indications for Lung transplant internationally, so there is clearly an unmet need.

Another important requirement for a Lung transplant programme is an experienced extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) service. ECMO is used during the Lung transplant procedure.  We have spent almost two years establishing this service at GSH and gaining increasing experience and confidence with this technology.

“I would like to congratulate the team of clinicians who performed this lung transplant. I couldn’t be more proud of our entire Groote Schuur Hospital team, indeed this hospital continues to do outstanding work. This happened a few days after we celebrated the first heart transplant performed in that same hospital. This goes to show that our clinicians are never satisfied with the status quo but go over and above their call of duty to save the lives of our patients. ” said Western Cape Health Minister, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo.

Dr Bhavna Patel, CEO at Groote Schuur Hospital says, “the hospital is extremely proud of this achievement continues to remain at the cutting edge of clinical care offered to patients and is committed to improvement through innovations such as this.”

This achievement coincides with the 50th anniversary of the world’s first heart transplant and is testament to the fact that GSH can continue to be an innovative leader in support of rending quality health to its clients.


Media Enquiries: 

Alaric Jacobs
Principal Communications Officer
Groote Schuur Hospital
Tel: 021 404 2188

Zimkhitha Mquteni
Spokesperson to the Western Cape Minister of Health, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo
Mobile: 078 0534451
Tel: 021 483 5862