Patient Story: Lung replacement procedure saves Karl-Gustav's life
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Patient Story: Lung replacement procedure saves Karl-Gustav's life

On May 15, little Karl-Gustav was transferred to the Helios Heart Center Leipzig with severe lung failure and successfully treated there. Beforehand, the parents and doctors from Klinikum St. Georg feared for the boy's life for several days and searched for a clinic that could provide the necessary treatment space for a special lung support procedure.

Five weeks of hospitalization and long anxiety lie behind the parents Sylvana O. and Enrico K. and their son. Karl-Gustav is 1.5 years old and was admitted to the hospital in Grünau on May 3. What at first appeared to be a harmless viral infection developed in only a short time into severe pneumonia with acute lung failure. Persistent high fever, poor oxygen saturation and the inflammation of the lungs caused a temporary transfer to the pediatric intensive care unit of the St. Georg Hospital. There Karl-Gustav was intubated and permanently supplied with oxygen.

Nevertheless, the boy's condition deteriorated so that his oxygen saturation dropped to a life-threatening level despite continuous ventilation. The lung tissue was so inflamed that oxygen exchange could no longer be performed. "In those hours, we had to watch him get worse and worse. Until then, we also didn't realize that the situation was so serious," Karl-Gustav's mom recalls the events of May 15. The doctors informed the parents that their child urgently needed ECMO. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, as it is called, is a procedure in which blood is oxygenated outside the body and then returned to the body. For this period, the machine temporarily takes over the function of the lungs and supplies the body with oxygen. Since the only place for Karl-Gustav to be treated was at the University Hospital in Bonn and he was not stable enough to be transported there, the Helios Heart Center Leipzig quickly agreed to take care of the boy's fate.

"Normally, we use veno-arterial ECMO here. In this procedure, both the heart and the lungs are supported with oxygen and the heart in particular is relieved. However, since in Karl-Gustav's case only the lungs were affected, veno-venous ECMO was required. This was the first time for us in pediatric cardiology at the Heart Center Leipzig to use this highly specialized procedure exclusively for the lungs. We are all the more pleased that the treatment went so well. This is a great success for us, which we owe not only to our team in the pediatric intensive care unit and the cardiotechnology department, but also to the collaboration with Prof. Dr. med. Andreas Müller from the neonatology and pediatric intensive care unit at the University Hospital of Bonn."

PD Dr. med. Michael Weidenbach, Senior Physician of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at the Helios Heart Center Leipzig.

For one week, the little boy was connected to the lung machine, which permanently supplied his body with oxygen and saved his life. He was cared for around the clock by a large team of staff. Thanks to the smooth and dedicated cooperation of everyone involved, Karl-Gustav is now on the road to recovery. "When Karl-Gustav could be transferred to the Heart Center Leipzig and it was clear that an ECMO place was available for him there, we were very relieved. The doctors not only cared for our son around the clock, but also emotionally supported us as parents and answered all our questions. The commitment was incredible," says Enrico K., Karl-Gustav's dad, gratefully.

The cause of the pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome was a very aggressive type of adenovirus. Since the treatment with the lung replacement procedure, Karl-Gustav has recovered well and can be discharged today to medical rehabilitation in Kreischa.

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