Abu Dhabi: The removal of an infected lung has proved life-saving for an expatriate nurse based in Abu Dhabi, who was suffering from a potentially fatal bacterial infection.

Following months of battling multi-drug resistant infection, it became necessary to remove the patient’s right lung, marking the first pneumonectomy or lung removal surgery at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

According to a statement sent by the hospital, the patient’s case was transferred to the facility after she developed respiratory failure, and her trachea or main airway had narrowed to barely three millimetres from an average diameter of 10 to 21 millimetres.

Dr Ali Wahla

“When she arrived at the hospital, she was fighting for her life and we had to act fast to save her. This case not only required highly skilled physicians, but anaesthesiologists specialising in airway cases as well as intensive care physicians to tend to her before and after treatment,” said Dr Ali Wahla, a physician with the hospital’s respiratory and critical care institute at the hospital.

Dr Wahla explained that the overuse of common antibiotics is leading to multi-drug resistance across the world, and that its prevalence in the UAE is currently higher than in the United States.

“It is true that health care workers, who work with infected patients, are also at higher risk of developing these infections. In the case of this patient, who was in her 40s, it was difficult to say where she acquired the infection initially, but it led to respiratory symptoms like coughing and fever at the beginning,” the doctor told Gulf News.

She was then treated with a series of antibiotics but her condition continued to worsen, and she was brought to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi in acute respiratory distress.

“The patient initially had a narrowing in her trachea which we opened using rigid bronchoscopy, [wherein a large hollow metal tube is used to open up the airway]. We then had to remove a stent that had previously been placed in her airway, before undertaking the pneumonectomy,” Dr Wahla said.

Dr Redha Souilamas

The pneumonectomy was led by Dr Redha Souilamas, chief of thoracic surgery at the hospital’s heart and vascular institute.

The patient then had to spend more than a few weeks in recovery, but has been able to resume work after being discharged.

“She’s doing exceptionally well; when she came to us, she was in a critical condition and to see her return to her life and work is wonderful,” Dr Wahla said.

He added that she should be able to lead a normal life as well, despite the fact that she is now missing a lung.

“This was an especially complicated case in which several of our doctors were required to step in and provide emergency care. I’m especially proud of our nursing and support staff, who enabled our physicians to operate at such a high level,” said Dr. Jeffrey Chapman, chief of the hospital’s respiratory and critical care institute.