Lung Transplant: What you Need to Know
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a serious lung condition, and no treatment works, you may start thinking about lung transplants. Is lung transplant possible? Yes, it is. While it’s a complex surgery, it can be a lifesaving option for those with severe lung disease. It can greatly improve your quality of life and increase your lifespan. If you are considering a lung transplant, it is important to discuss all of your options with your medical team and loved ones.
What happens before a lung transplant?
First, it’s important to find the best pulmonology hospital in your area or one that specializes in lung transplant surgery. Look for a hospital with a dedicated transplant team and a high success rate. The team should include specialists in pulmonology, surgery, and other related fields.
Next, you’ll need to undergo a thorough evaluation to determine if you’re a good candidate for lung replacement surgery. This will involve a range of tests, including blood work, imaging scans, and lung function tests. The evaluation process can take several weeks or even months.
Assuming you’re approved for the procedure, the lung transplant surgery itself can take several hours. During the surgery, a surgeon will remove the diseased lung(s) and replace it with a healthy lung from a donor. After the surgery, you’ll need to stay in the hospital for several weeks while your body heals and your new lung adapts.
The success rate of lung transplant surgery varies depending on a range of factors, including your overall health, the quality of the donated lung, and how well you follow your post-surgery care plan. Generally, the success rate is around 80% one-year post-surgery, but this can vary widely.
It’s important to note that lung transplant surgery is a major procedure with significant risks, and it’s not suitable for everyone. It’s also an expensive procedure. On top of that, aftercare for this procedure might also be quite costly
Reasons for a lung transplant
There are several reasons why a lung transplant may be recommended.
One of the most common reasons is a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. COPD is a progressive disease that causes difficulty breathing and can lead to respiratory failure. A lung transplant may be considered for those who have severe COPD that is not improving with other treatments.
Another reason for a lung transplant is pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that causes scarring in the lungs and makes it difficult to breathe. Pulmonary hypertension, which is high blood pressure in the lungs, can also lead to a lung transplant if it is not responding to other treatments.
Cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in the lungs, can also be a reason for a lung transplant. The mucus can block airways and cause lung infections, which can lead to respiratory failure.
Other less common reasons for a lung transplant include alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a genetic disorder that can cause lung and liver disease, and sarcoidosis, a disease that causes inflammation in the lungs.
Risks and Complications of lung transplant
While a lung transplant can greatly improve your quality of life, it is important to understand that it is a major surgery with risks and potential complications. After the transplant, you will need to be closely monitored by your medical team. Here are some of the potential risks you should be aware of:
Rejection: Your body’s immune system may see the transplanted lung as foreign and attack it, leading to organ rejection. This can happen immediately after the surgery or years later. You’ll need to take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of your life to reduce the risk of rejection.
Infection: Because you’ll be taking immunosuppressant drugs, your immune system will be weakened, making you more susceptible to infections. You’ll need to take precautions to avoid infection, such as avoiding crowds and washing your hands frequently.
Complications from surgery: As with any major surgery, there is a risk of complications such as bleeding, blood clots, and infections.
Side effects of medication: The immunosuppressant drugs you’ll need to take can have side effects such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and increased risk of infections.
Long-term complications: Over time, you may experience complications such as chronic rejection, which can lead to reduced lung function and the need for another transplant.
If you’re considering a lung transplant, it’s important to talk with your healthcare provider and transplant team about the benefits and risks, how to manage them, as well as your chances of success. With the right care and support, you can minimize these risks and enjoy the benefits of a successful lung transplant.