• About lung transplantation

    Donor "lung in a box" helps increase the chance of lung transplantation.  

    Lung transplantation is a type of surgery to remove a diseased lung and replace it with a healthy lung. In the majority of lung transplantation surgeries, the healthy lung comes from a deceased donor. However, in some rare cases (usually involving lung transplantations in children) two living donors provide a lobe of lung tissue to form a whole lung for the recipient. Lung transplantations can be single or double replacements.

    In the case of single lung transplantation, an incision is made on the same side of the lung to be replaced while the patient is under anesthesia and hooked up to a ventilator. The unhealthy lung is removed through the incision and replaced with the healthy lung. With double lung transplantation surgery, an incision is made in the lower chest that extends from side to side and each diseased lung is removed and replaced one at a time. Typically, a single lung transplantation surgery lasts from four to eight hours and a double lung transplantation surgery lasts from six to 12 hours with the patient remaining in the hospital for seven to 14 days or longer.


    Lung transplantation surgery is considered when a patient’s lung disease is life-threatening and other medical treatments have failed to work or are not an option. Lung transplantation surgery is performed with the anticipated outcome of improving quality and life and increasing the number years a patient has to live. Diseases or conditions which can result in the need for a lung transplant include:

    Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), especially emphysema
    Cystic fibrosis
    • Congenital defects that result in damaged arteries of the lung
    Interstitial lung disease
    Pulmonary hypertension
    • Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (AAT)


    Lung transplantation may not be considered if the patient:

    • Is over 65
    • Is in too poor of health to endure procedure
    • Continues to smoke or abuse alcohol/drugs
    • Has active hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or HIV
    • Has had cancer in the past two years
    • Has lung disease that will harm new lung
    • Has other severely diseased organs

    Risks and Complications

    The primary risks are infection and rejection of the new lung. Rejection occurs when the immune system considers the new lung to be a foreign object and starts to create antibodies against the lung. Medicine is prescribed to suppress the immune system to help prevent this from happening. Although it can happen at any time, rejection of the new lung is most likely in the six months following surgery. Patients are taught the warning signs of lung rejection and encouraged to seek medical care if the following if the following symptoms are observed:

    • Fever and flu-like symptoms
    • Chest congestion
    • Coughing and shortness of breath
    • New pain around the lung

    It is also paramount to avoid increased risk of infection after lung transplantation. Patients are reminded to wash hands often, take steps to ensure health of teeth and gums, keep skin protected from scratches and cuts, and avoid exposure to people with colds and flu.