Lung transplants may lead to a better quality of life.
A lung transplant for interstitial lung disease (ILD) can help you have a better quality of life, but it is a serious surgery. During a transplant, doctors replace a diseased lung with a healthy lung from a donor. More than 2,700 lung transplants are performed every year in the U.S.
Lung transplant information
Lung Transplant Risks and Commitments
Successful lung transplants can help people live longer. However, a lung transplant involves important risks and commitments:
You may need to stay in the hospital for some time after the transplant.
- You will take medication for the rest of your life to prevent rejection of the transplanted lung.
- The medication may make you more likely to get infections and can have other side effects.
- Frequent visits with your doctor and transplant team will be necessary.
- If you don’t live near a transplant center, you will have to move close to one for a year or two.
- In some cases, life-threatening complications can occur from surgery.
Are You a Candidate for Lung Transplant?
Deciding to have a lung transplant is a serious decision. You will need to talk it over with your family and caregivers. It takes a lot of time and effort to get evaluated for a lung transplant. You will have a lot of doctor appointments before and after the surgery.
Many factors determine whether a person is a good candidate for a lung transplant. Each lung transplant program has its own criteria and transplant team.
Some programs will perform lung transplants on people over age 64 and on those who need the help of a machine to breathe (ventilator). For more information, visit the website of the transplant centers you are interested in.
Who May Be a Lung Transplant Candidate
Your doctor may consider referring you for a lung transplant if:
- You have shortness of breath at rest or with small amounts of activity
- You need more oxygen than you previously required
- Your disease is worsening and there are no other medications or treatments available
- Your other organs (liver, kidneys, heart) are working well
- You do not have any other major health problems
- You are mentally strong enough to have a lung transplant
- You can follow your doctor’s orders exactly
- You have friends and family to help you before and after your transplant
- Your doctor says you have 2 years or less to live at your current health condition and on your current medication
In general, a lung transplant may be riskier for you if:
- Have osteoporosis, a condition that causes your bones to be weak and break easily
- Are of older age and frail
- Have had a part of your lung removed or you’ve had a procedure called a pleurodesis in the past
- Have an infection that does not get better with treatment
- Have HIV or hepatitis B or C
- Take high doses of steroids
- Have problems with your esophagus and severe acid reflux
- Don’t eat enough or eat balanced meals, so your body doesn’t have the vitamins and minerals it needs for proper wound healing
Who Is Not a Good Lung Transplant Candidate
You are not a good candidate for a lung transplant for any of these reasons:
- Certain health conditions or infections:
- Infections that are untreated or do not get better with treatment
- Cancer (except non-melanomatous skin cancer) within the past 2-5 years
- Severe heart, kidneys, or liver problems
- Bleeding disorder that cannot be controlled or cured
- Chest or spinal deformity
- Have a mental health condition that is not being controlled
- Smoker or quit smoking less than 6 months ago
- Currently use drugs or drink alcohol
- Don’t have family or friends to help you before and after the transplant
- Are extremely overweight or obese
- Commitment to your health:
- Don’t always take your medication or follow your doctor’s orders
- Tend to miss your doctor appointments
Before you become eligible for a lung transplant, your doctor may recommend other treatments including medication and oxygen therapy.
“Living with Interstitial Lung Disease” patient education guide
This 52-page guide explores every facet of ILD that you may encounter, from diagnosis and treatment to support and myths. With the most up-to-date information available, this guide will help you and your loved ones feel confident when making decisions about your diagnosis.