Doctors that undertook Niki Lauda's lung transplant operation say that the Austrian was mere days away from passing away. Lauda had an emergency operation after the three-time world champion was diagnosed with acute lung disease.
Speaking about Lauda's problems, Marco Idzko, head of the hospital’s division of pulmonology explained: "This [acute lung disease] ultimately leads to the destruction and loss of functional lung tissue – and the patient is no longer able to absorb enough oxygen through his lungs."
The operation was a success, and Lauda was placed in an artificial coma before it was soon announced that he was conscious and manually breathing. Cardiologist Gottfried Heinz explained that with drug therapy options limited, doctors were forced to put Lauda under the knife.
"Unfortunately, after 10 days in intensive care, because of a critical oxygen supply, therapy escalated," he said. "We had to perform a mechanical lung replacement, an ECMO – an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation."
By the time the decision was taken to undergo the operation, doctors predicted that Lauda only had a number of days to survive. However, Lauda pulled through, and the doctors are happy with how his new organ is functioning.
"The lung has an excellent primary function, so that we were able to remove the circulatory support, the ECMO, in the operating theatre,” said thoracic surgeon Konrad Hotzenecker. "The graft lung has taken over its function well."