Doctors Use Breast Implants During Lung Transplant To Save Life of Man Who Vaped for Years

Davey Bauer. PHOTO: COURTESY DAVEY BAUER; NORTHWESTERN MEDICINE

In an extraordinary medical case, doctors have credited breast implants with playing a pivotal role in preserving the life of 34-year-old Davey Bauer, whose lungs had critically failed earlier this year.

Bauer, an individual who led an active lifestyle, faced a severe health crisis attributable to his history of smoking. In an attempt to make a healthier choice, he switched from traditional cigarettes to vaping in 2014. Despite the perceived notion of vaping being a less harmful alternative, medical professionals warn that both smoking and vaping can cause inflammation in lung tissue, significantly increasing the risk of severe infections.

Bauer’s situation deteriorated rapidly, leading his medical team to conclude that a double lung transplant was imperative for his survival. Upon this realization, he was promptly transferred to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. However, upon arrival, his condition was deemed too critical to proceed with the transplant surgery immediately. Furthermore, the challenge of locating a compatible donor meant that the doctors needed to buy more time while managing Bauer’s precarious state.

In a dramatic turn of events, Bauer’s surgical team made the unprecedented decision to remove his failing lungs to halt the spread of infection and wait for a donor. This radical move, while necessary, presented the team with a new challenge: how to maintain the structural integrity of Bauer’s chest cavity and ensure his heart remained in the correct position without the lungs to support it.

The solution they devised was innovative—breast implants were placed inside Bauer’s chest cavity. These implants served as a temporary measure to prevent his heart from collapsing within the now-empty chest space, as the heart tends to lose its shape and become “floppy” without the lungs to support it, told CDC.

The use of breast implants in this manner was a medical ingenuity, effectively bridging the gap between the removal of Bauer’s lungs and the transplantation of the donor’s lungs. Just days after the implants were placed, the doctors performed another intricate surgery to remove the breast implants and successfully transplant the new lungs into Bauer.

The medical team at Northwestern Memorial regarded Bauer’s case as one of the most complex and challenging they had encountered. Their quick thinking and unconventional use of breast implants were key to Bauer’s survival.

Following the successful transplant, Bauer was released from the hospital in September. His recovery journey is ongoing as he engages in therapy at a rehabilitation facility, a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the innovative frontiers of medical science.

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