Former Austrian driver Niki Lauda has a realistic prospect of regaining the quality of life he had before undergoing an emergency lung transplant last Thursday, doctors treating him in Vienna said.
“In principle, future activities should not differ from what I had,” said surgeon Walter Klepetko, who led the operation, which lasted six hours at Vienna General Hospital.
The doctor acknowledged, however, that there is an “open spectrum” regarding the future evolution of the 69-year-old patient.
He recalled that the risk of rejection of a transplanted lung is generally maintained for a year after the operation, so Lauda must be subjected to strict controls and abundant medication that guarantees the functioning of his entire body.
Although the norm is that the prognosis is more favorable the younger the patient is, Klepetko considered that the vitality of the three-time world champion is a “very important” factor for a happy recovery.
“Lauda is an internationally known fighter,” recalled the surgeon, clearly alluding to his miraculous return to Formula One racing shortly after the serious accident he suffered in 1976 at the German Nürburgring circuit.
The incident left his face disfigured and serious health consequences, to the point that he had to undergo kidney transplants in 1997 and 2005.
Despite this, Lauda has always led a very active life and remains so closely linked to Formula One and has had a successful career as an entrepreneur in the commercial aviation sector.
Cardiologist Christian Hengstenberg described Lauda’s evolution as “very, very satisfactory” and highlighted as very positive the fact that he could be extubated and began to breathe normally 24 hours after transplantation.
Hengstenberg explained that, considering that after such an operation the patient feels “as if he has been run over by a tank”, this is “extremely important to the healing process.”
For his part, pulmonologist Marco Idzko denied that the cause of the crisis was flu, as reported by various media.
“At no time did Niki Lauda suffer a normal summer flu,” the doctor stressed, before specifying that Lauda’s life was in danger due to a destruction of lung tissue triggered by an inflammation of the alveoli.
The ex-pilot and businessman interrupted his vacation on the Spanish island of Ibiza and flew by private plane to Vienna to be treated. EFE