Are you a candidate for lung transplant?

Many people with chronic lung disease view lung transplants as a last resort. However, they might be wrong to do so. If you suffer from a chronic lung disease — such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary fibrosis, or cystic fibrosis — you may be a good candidate for a lung transplant. Here are five reasons why you should be evaluated.

  1. You’re no longer seeing results with medical therapy. If the medications and treatments you’ve been using no longer help your chronic lung disease, a transplant may be your best option. Although every surgery has risks, lung transplant recipients have a good chance of leading a longer, happier life. After successful surgery, patients can breathe better and be more active than they have been in years.
  2. You meet the basic criteria for a lung transplant. In general, you’re considered a good candidate if you have a body mass index under 35, haven’t had cancer in the past five years, don’t abuse substances (cocaine, heroin, or other illicit drugs), and don’t use nicotine. If you’re a good candidate for a lung transplant, it’s best to get on the transplant list as soon as possible. It’s also important to be willing and able to commit to a healthy lifestyle after the surgery. You would need to stick with any major changes (like quitting smoking) that you made before the surgery.
  3. You understand the risks involved. Any major surgery has significant risks, and lung transplants are exceptionally complex. Complications occur in about 10 to 20 percent of surgeries. The most common risks include rejection of the donor lung, infection, and failure of the lungs to function immediately. Your transplant team will discuss the risks with you in detail. The good news is that the majority of single- and double-lung transplants go well and improve quality of life for years to come.
  4. You have a good support system at home. Before and after lung transplant surgery, you’ll visit the transplant center frequently. You’ll need assistance with transportation to and from the transplant center, as well as help at home while you prepare for and recover from surgery. When you’re on a waiting list, you need to stay close to the transplant center. Once the transplant center receives the donor lung, the transplant must begin within a few hours. A strong support system of friends and family will also help you stay positive and emotionally resilient. The ups and downs of the waiting period, surgery, and recovery can take an emotional and physical toll, so it’s important to keep your spirits up.
  5. You have access to a leading facility. UPMC is a leader in lung transplants. Since 1982, UPMC surgeons have performed more than 2,000 lung and heart-lung transplants. UPMC frequently takes complex cases that were turned away by other centers. Our doctors have performed transplants when conditions like reflux or a smaller chest size complicated the procedure. Ask your doctor about the pros and cons of a lung transplant, and whether you’re a good candidate.

For more information about the UPMC Lung Transplant Program, visit our website or call us at 844-548-4591.

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