Going on the Lung Transplant List
After testing and interviews have been completed and it’s concluded the patient is a good candidate for a lung transplant, he or she will be listed on regional and national organ recipient lists. A person’s place on the list is determined by the Lung Allocation Score, a complicated calculation that tries to predict two things:
- How long a patient is likely to live without a lung transplant
- How long a patient would be expected to live after receiving a lung transplant
People with higher scores are considered first when organ donors’ lungs become available.
What Happens During a Lung Transplant
When a compatible donor’s lungs become available, the transplant candidate will be called urgently to the transplant center to prepare for the surgery. Members of the surgical team travel to examine the deceased donor’s lungs to make sure they are suitable for transplant. If they are, surgery on the recipient begins immediately, while the lungs are in transit to the center.
Surgeons may perform either a single lung transplant or a double lung transplant. There are advantages and disadvantages to each option, and the choice varies with the recipient’s lung disease and other factors.
A surgeon will make a large incision in the chest during a lung transplant. The incision varies by the type of lung transplant:
- An incision on one side of the chest only (for a single lung transplant)
- An incision across the entire width of the front of the chest, or an incision on either side (for a double lung transplant)
Complete unconsciousness is maintained with general anesthesia during the surgery. Some people receiving a lung transplant will need to go on cardiopulmonary bypass during the surgery. While on bypass, the blood is pumped and enriched with oxygen by a machine, rather than by the heart and lungs.