Lung Transplant Week

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General Information

Lung Transplant Week

Lung transplantation is an innovative therapy for persons with advanced lung disease, including pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and pulmonary hypertension.  This procedure is usually considered the ultimate treatment after medical therapies for the underlying lung disease have been exhausted and the disease is having a significant impact on survival and quality of life. Over 4000 lung transplants were performed worldwide in the past year.

Patients who receive lung transplants suffer from progressive and chronic lung diseases such as:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension
  • Eisenmenger syndrome, and
  • Emphysema due to alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency

People who are considered for lung transplantation have reached the point where their pulmonary disease has become untreatable, their daily activities are limited, and their life-expectancy is less than 2 years. In general, the quality of their lives are poor particularly in the area of physical function.  Patients are unable to do the things that they want to or need to do such as work, attend school, take care of their children and sometimes are limited in their abilities to take care of themselves.

Survival for lung transplant patients is about 85% at one year, 70% at 3 years and 50-60% at 5 years. Younger patients (<50 years old) tend to have better survival when compared to older patients. Likewise, patients with cystic fibrosis tend to have better survival rates than those patients with other indications.

Once a patient receives a lung transplant, the quality of their life most often meaningfully and significantly improves.1 After transplantation, indices such as the Bode index and the patient's own perception of their quality of life, dramatically improves. Although physical function improves, it often does not improve to pre-illness levels since many patients are severely deconditioned from their long battles with their illnesses prior to transplantation.  A few studies have indicated that pulmonary rehabilitation post lung transplantation can further improve physical function and thus quality of life after the transplant. 

There may be complications after lung transplantation. These complications include rejection, infection and graft dysfunction. Most patients will experience at least one episode of rejection post-transplant during the first year. Transbronchial biopsies are performed regularly to monitor for rejection and most episodes are amenable to treatment. Infections are common with all transplant recipients but the lung is more prone to infections than other organs. One of the key determinants of long-term survival the patient's quality of life after transplantation is the development of chronic allograft dysfunction (CLAD) or bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome (BOS). With the development of CLAD/BOS, lung function decreases and the patient's energy and mobility levels also decrease. Although patients are carefully monitored for CLAD, treatments are limited when it does occur. More research is needed to address this ongoing problem.

For more information on lung transplantation, please contact your health care provider.

  1. Singer JP, Singer LG. Quality of life in lung transplantation. Semin Respir Crit Care Med. 2013;34(3):421-430.



Four Facts About Lung Transplant

  1. One organ donor can save eight lives and change the lives of more than 50 people.

  2. Donated lungs require special methods of preservation to keep them viable and may be preserved between 4-6 hours between the time of procurement and transplantation.

  3. A lung transplant transforms lives affected by diseases such as cystic fibrosis, pulmonary fibrosis, Sarcoidosis, pulmonary hypertension and COPD.

  4. While transplants give recipients a second chance, they aren't a cure. Rejection rates for lung transplant recipients is worse than that of any transplanted organ.