NYU Langone’s First Lung Transplant, Performed on PF Patient, a Success

Catarina Silva, MSc avatar

by Catarina Silva, MSc |

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NYU Langone's Transplant Institute

NYU Langone’s Transplant Institute successfully performed its first double lung transplant on a woman with a complicated form of pulmonary fibrosis. The procedure is part of the organization’s new lung transplant program.

The surgery took place Feb. 10, just weeks after the institution performed a heart transplant — also for the first time.

In 2015, 48-year-old Wanda Cepeda of Brooklyn was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis caused by Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome. This multi-system genetic disorder is characterized by visual impairment, abnormally light coloring of the skin, hair, and eyes, plus blood clotting problems that can lead to prolonged bleeding. Some people also develop pulmonary fibrosis.

Eventually, Cepeda ended up needing oxygen therapy and a scooter to move around. This, combined with her high bleeding risk, kept her off the transplant waiting lists of most medical centers.

In December 2017, she was referred by her pulmonologist to Luis Angel, MD, who took her case in collaboration with Zachary Kon, MD. 

Angel is the medical director of NYU Langone’s new transplant program and a professor in the departments of medicine and cardiothoracic surgery. Kon is the program’s surgical director and assistant professor in the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery.

“I had been fighting this disease for years, trying to stay healthy for my husband and our two daughters, but I was losing hope,” Cepeda said in a press release. “Dr. Angel was the first to say he wouldn’t turn me away. I’m so grateful for him and Dr. Kon — my ‘dream team’ — for allowing me to hope again.”

Cepeda was listed on the national organ registry in early February and not long after, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) found a blood/tissue match. The donor’s lungs were harvested by Nader Moazami, MD, a professor in the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery and surgical director of heart transplant at NYU Langone, and Kazuhiro Hisamoto, MD, clinical instructor of cardiothoracic surgery.

Cepeda’s bilateral transplant surgery was performed by Kon and Deane Smith, MD, assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery. NYU Langone physicians used a less invasive alternative approach that avoids splitting the sternum, with the hope of a faster recovery. 

“When we met with Mrs. Cepeda, we saw a person with a strong will to live and a lot to live for, and we pledged to do all we could to find her the lungs she needed to get back to a healthy life with her family,” Angel said. “Her case, while difficult, is emblematic of the high-level individualized care and treatment we provide to all our patients.”

Kon added: “The Transplant Institute extends our thanks to the entire team, including our advanced practice providers, nurses, residents, and specialists from Rusk Rehabilitation who have helped Mrs. Cepeda along the road to recovery. We look forward to building off the success of our first lung transplant, as we remain committed to providing world-class, personalized care for every patient.”

For pulmonary fibrosis patients, a lung transplant is often the best choice for extending life and improving quality of life.