Are you a candidate for lung transplant?

Are You a Candidate for a Lung Transplant?

If you have a chronic lung disease, a lung transplant may seem like a scary treatment option. Many people think transplantation should only be considered as a last resort, when all other treatments have been unsuccessful. But in truth, you should find out whether you may be a candidate for a lung transplant relatively early in your disease by undergoing an evaluation.

Learn more about lung transplant evaluations and the importance of early testing from the experts at UPMC.

To learn more about who can benefit from lung transplantation, and to find out if you might be a good candidate, visit the UPMC Lung Transplant Program website or call us at 844-548-4591.

Why You Should Be Evaluated Early for a Lung Transplant

If you have a chronic lung disease, you’re probably receiving regular medical treatment from your doctor. But, as explained by the American Society of Transplantation, many lung diseases can get much worse in a short period of time or stop responding to medicine. If you have a serious chronic lung disease, like emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you may be a lung transplant candidate.

That’s why you should receive a lung transplant evaluation relatively early in your disease, when you’re still in good to moderate health. If you are deemed a candidate after an evaluation, you may wait weeks, months, or years for a lung to become available to you while on the wait list.

The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) explains that there are more people who need transplants than there are available organs. People die every day waiting for a transplant. If you are placed on the list early, there’s a better chance you can receive a transplant when you need it. For example, patients with pulmonary fibrosis or COPD should be evaluated for lung transplant before their disease progresses too far.

According to UNOS, your place on the transplant waiting list depends on a variety of factors, including:

  • Age
  • BMI
  • Diagnosis
  • Cardiac index (how well the heart pumps blood)
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney function
  • Effect of lung disease on daily function

These factors make up your lung allocation score, which determines your place on the transplant waiting list.

If you think you may be a candidate for a lung transplant, talk to your doctor about a referral to the UPMC Lung Transplant Program.

What Is a Lung Transplant Evaluation?

A lung transplant evaluation is a series of tests to determine if you’re a good candidate for a lung transplant. Candidates typically have one of the following diseases:

  • Alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency
  • Bronchiectasis
  • COPD
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Emphysema
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Pulmonary hypertension (primary or secondary)
  • Scleroderma
  • Sarcoidosis

Candidates must also have a body mass index (BMI) between 16 and 35 and be free from substance abuse, including nicotine, for six months.

If you meet these criteria, you may be accepted for a lung transplant evaluation. At UPMC, we consider everyone referred to our program, even if you’ve been turned away from other transplant centers.

The evaluation lasts about one week and consists of several different exams and tests, from an x-ray and CT scan to blood work and a walking test. Visit the UPMC Lung Transplant Program website to explore the full list of evaluation components.

After your evaluation, your transplant team will determine if you are a good candidate for a lung transplant. If so, they will place you on the lung transplant waiting list. If you are not a suitable candidate, you will be referred to the UPMC Comprehensive Lung Center to explore other treatment options.

What Happens When You’re on the Lung Transplant Waiting List

If your UPMC transplant team places you on the waiting list, they will provide care, instructions, and advice for you every step of the way. Your doctors will continue to pursue medical treatment for your condition while you’re waiting for a transplant and monitor your status on the waiting list. When an organ becomes available for you, your surgeon will perform the transplant. Then, your team will continue to care for you and help you resume a normal life.

To learn more about who can benefit from lung transplantation, and to find out if you might be a good candidate, visit the UPMC Lung Transplant Program website or call us at 844-548-4591.