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Lung Transplant for COPD - Topic Overview

Although uncommon, lung transplants are sometimes used in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). During a lung transplant, you are given a lung from a donor who has recently died. A single-lung transplant (receiving one lung) is done more often than a double-lung transplant (receiving two lungs). Improvement in the ability to exercise is nearly as good in people who have a single-lung transplant as it is in those who have a double-lung transplant.

Lung transplant surgery has been found to help people with COPD for at least 3 to 4 years after surgery. A transplant can improve breathing and quality of life. But the long-term benefit of lung transplant for people with COPD is not yet known.

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Criteria have not been firmly established for selecting people with COPD to have a lung transplant. Lung transplant for people with COPD may be considered for those who:

  • Have severe lung disease.
  • Are younger than age 65.
  • Have stopped smoking.
  • Have family and friends who will help and encourage them during and after the surgery.
  • Do not currently have a drug or alcohol abuse problem.

Other things to think about for lung transplant include the following:

  • It can take a long time to find a donor whose blood and tissue types match yours.
  • You will have to take medicine for the rest of your life to prevent rejection of the new lung. Even then, there is a chance that rejection will occur.
  • The medicines you must take suppress your immune system. This results in an increased risk for severe and life-threatening infections.

If you are interested in lung transplants, you may be referred to a transplant center, where you will have extensive physical and psychological testing to see whether you are a good candidate for a lung transplant. The testing includes exercise tests, lung function tests, heart function tests, numerous blood tests, psychological profiles, and other specialized testing. In addition, you need to demonstrate mental stability and the commitment that is needed to follow up with the medical demands after the transplant.

If you become a candidate for a transplant, you are placed on a waiting list. Depending on where the transplant center is located, the wait for a lung transplant can be from 1 year to over 2 years.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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