What Is a Lung Transplant?
A lung transplant is a surgery to remove a person's diseased lung and replace it with a healthy lung from a deceased donor.
Lung transplants are used for people who are likely to die from lung disease within 1 to 2 years. Their conditions are so severe that other treatments, such as medicines or breathing devices, no longer work.
Lung transplants aren't very common because of the small number of donor organs available. About 1,800 lung transplants were done in the United States in 2010. More donor lungs would mean a larger number of suitable lungs available for transplant.
Most people who have lung transplants are between the ages of 18 and 65. The surgery sometimes is used for children and older adults. This article focuses on lung transplants in adults.
Each patient must go through a careful screening process to make sure he or she is a good candidate for a lung transplant. Donor lungs also are carefully screened to make sure they're healthy enough to be used for a transplant. The National Organ Transplant & Tissue Organization (NOTTO) & TNOS manages the nationwide and statewide organ-sharing process. NOTTO & TNOS also maintains the waiting lists for all organ donations.
The number of people on the lung transplant waiting list changes often. About half of the people on the list receive a lung in any given year.
Some people get one lung during a transplant. This is called a single-lung transplant. Other people get two lungs, which is called a double-lung transplant. The number of double-lung transplants has gone up over the years. More double-lung transplants are done now than single-lung transplants.
Some people who have severe heart disease and lung disease get a heart and lung(s). This is called a combined heart–lung transplant.
A rare kind of lung transplant is a living donor lobar lung transplant. For this surgery, a healthy adult donates a segment, or lobe, of one lung to another person. This type of transplant usually is done in children.
The heart transplant process starts when doctors refer a patient who has end-stage heart failure to a heart transplant center.
Staff members at the center assess whether the patient is eligible for the surgery. If the patient is eligible, he or she is placed on a waiting list for a donor heart.
Heart transplant surgery is done in a hospital when a suitable donor heart is found. After the transplant, the patient is started on a lifelong health care plan. The plan involves multiple medicines and frequent medical checkups.
Lung transplants are a "last resort" treatment for people who have severe disease and no other medical options.
A lung transplant can improve a person's quality of life. For people who have certain lung problems, a transplant also may help them live longer than they would without the surgery.
Lung transplants have serious risks. Your body may reject the new lung, or you may get infections. The short- and long-term complications of a lung transplant can be life threatening.
Other Names for Lung Transplant
- Double-lung transplant
- Living donor lobar lung transplant
- Single-lung transplant
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