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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

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Lung Transplant Survival Improving

More Than 63% Survive for at Least 3 Years, Experts Report
WebMD Health News

March 15, 2006 - Good news for lung transplant patients. The odds of survival for this risky surgery are getting better.

A report in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine details the improvement. The report shows that nearly 56% of people who got lung transplants in 1988-1994 survived for at least three years, compared with 63% who got lung transplants from 2000 to 2003.

Data came from the 2005 Official Report of the Registry of the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation. The researchers were Marc Estenne, MD, of Erasme University Hospital in Brussels, Belgium, and Robert Kotloff, MD, of the University of Pennsylvania.

Latest Lung Transplant Numbers

The report details findings for 931 bilateral lung transplants (in which both lungs are replaced), 772 single-lung transplants, and 74 heart-lung transplants in 2003.

Though survival has improved, lung transplantation still carries serious risks including infections and rejection of the transplant by the patient's immune system.

Lung transplants are usually done as a last resort after other medical treatments fail for diseases such as emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis, and cystic fibrosis. Afterward, transplant patients must take medicines for life to reduce the chances that their body will reject the transplant.

Expanding the pool of organ donors is a key priority, note Estenne and Kotloff. They also call for new ways to predict and avoid complications from lung transplants.

Long Waiting List

In the U.S. today, there are 3,099 people waiting for lung transplants and 148 awaiting heart-lung transplants. Those figures come from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). The United Network for Organ Sharing runs OPTN under contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In 2005, nearly 3,500 people in the U.S. were on lung transplant waiting lists and 1,000 got lung transplants, according to the American Lung Association.

Considering becoming an organ donor? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers this advice:

  • Indicate your intent to be an organ and tissue donor on your driver's license.
  • Carry an organ donor card.
  • Most important, discuss your decision with family members and loved ones. Your family may be asked to sign a consent form in order for your donation to occur.

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