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Lung Transplant Criteria

At the Temple Lung Center, we take many factors into consideration when deciding if lung transplant is the right treatment for you. We consider all patients in need of a lung transplant on an individual basis, including those who may have been turned down for a transplant at other centers.

Our lung transplant team consists of pulmonologists, surgeons, nurses and social workers who carefully evaluate each individual to determine if a patient is a candidate. During the evaluation process, the team:

  • Reviews your medical history
  • Conducts diagnostic tests
  • Performs a psychological exam
  • Gathers information about your support system

Financial staff also work with your health insurance company to determine coverage and/or alternative options.

While lung transplants can extend life expectancy and improve quality of life, there are risks associated with the procedure. Even if our transplant team decides you’re a candidate for lung transplant, you will ultimately decide for yourself if lung transplant is the best option for you and your family.

What you'll learn on this page:

 

Lung Transplant Candidate Criteria

While transplant centers have the ability to use flexible lung transplant criteria in the evaluation process, including your unique medical and personal history, there are several considerations for a lung transplant that must be met. These considerations have been determined by the International Society of Heart and Lung Transplantation and consist of:

Being a lung transplant candidate includes having end-stage lung disease AND the following:

  • Physical ability to survive for 90 days following transplant
  • Medical likelihood that you will survive 5 years after transplant
  • High risk of death if lung transplant is not performed within 2 years

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We Consider the Most Difficult Cases

Our advanced level of training and experience means we consider and accept some of the most complex and challenging cases. Because of this, we’re able to accept some candidates that are typically turned down at other centers. These include patients who:

  • Are older than 65 years of age
  • Have specific conditions, such as esophageal dysfunction
  • Have had a history of heart bypass surgery
  • Have a BMI (body mass index) of 32-35

If you meet all the criteria for lung transplant, you’ll then complete the steps to be placed on the lung transplant waiting list.

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The Evaluation Process

The evaluation process begins with a series of questions about your physical and mental health. Based on these screening questions, your pulmonologist will decide if you may be eligible for lung transplantation.

You’ll also be required to complete a series of tests. These may include:

This evaluation may also involve a number of tests designed to assess your general health, including:

Expedited evaluation accommodates your schedule

The Temple Lung Transplant Program takes care to accommodate the needs of every patient during the evaluation process. If you drive a distance to Temple, your pulmonologist will review your records prior to your appointment to help ensure you meet program requirements. Testing is scheduled to coincide with your visit, and results are available for discussion at your consultation visit the following week.

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The Lung Transplant Waiting List

The waiting list for a lung transplant or a heart-lung transplant is managed by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). The time to transplant varies from person to person, and can range from several months to several years.

Donor matching occurs through a computer system that compares donor and candidate data to determine optimal matches. This is based on factors such as blood type, height, weight, distance from the hospital and organ size.

When a donor lung becomes available, you will receive a phone call. Be ready to act quickly and come to the hospital immediately. Prior to this, your transplant team will have checked in to make sure you’re prepared and understand what to expect.

Your procedure may take anywhere from 2 to 10 hours, depending on the type of lung transplant you’re having.

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Building a Strong Support System

Temple is with you through every step of the way

Temple offers a support system for you and your caregivers throughout the lung transplant process and recovery. These are the people who are there for you and your family to answer questions, provide you with education and resources, and help ensure you’re receiving the best care.

In addition to the surgical team, which includes specialized nurses who are trained to monitor your condition, you’ll also be cared for by:

Transplant Nurse Coordinator

Your transplant nurse coordinator will help you coordinate all visits and act as your primary point of contact from the moment you’re referred for evaluation.

Financial coordinator

There are a number of expenses associated with having a lung transplant. Some of these expenses are related to the transplant itself. Other expenses might be hotel stays during the evaluation period and for your support system, who will be by your side.

A financial coordinator will work with you to set up a financial strategy and provide resources if you need them to help cover the cost of your transplant. You may also discuss post-transplant expenses such as new medications that you will be required to take.

Psychologist

Lung transplantation is a serious commitment, and there will be ups and downs throughout the process. A psychologist has specialized training in identifying emotional needs and will provide you with tools for you and your family to help cope with the challenges.

Social worker

You may need assistance at home after your transplant. Your social worker will assist with coordinating resources for you, such as physical therapy and home health, if available. Social workers can also provide you and your loved ones with information on support groups.

Primary care doctor

Your primary care doctor or primary specialist is at the center of care communications, especially if you’re required to travel for your lung transplant. Working with your primary care doctor to coordinate medical appointments and tests keeps everyone informed and that all pre- and post-transplant requirements are met.

Clinical immunologist

You will be required to take medicines to suppress your immune system for the rest of your life after your transplant. Your clinical immunologist will provide you with education and support to help reduce the risk of organ rejection and infection.

Nutritionist

There’s often more to good nutrition than eating healthy for lung transplant recipients. Understand what you need to eat before and after the procedure so that you can stay as healthy as possible. You want to be strong for your procedure and heal afterwards.

Friends and family lift you up

Your caregivers are one of the most essential aspects of successful lung transplantation. In fact, it's so important that we require every lung transplant patient to identify a caregiver before they're evaluated. This may include friends and family members who are willing to stay by your side before, during and long after your transplant.

While caregiving is a tremendous commitment that can be demanding, many caregivers also feel it’s rewarding.

Consider someone who is willing to be by your side to help you do the things you cannot do in the months before the procedure, during the evaluation and testing phase, while you wait for a match, during your hospital stay and surgery, and long after — until you’re feeling more yourself again.

Support groups lend a hand

You may also consider joining a support group, either online or in-person. Support groups give you the opportunity to meet and learn from others who have similar conditions or who have had a lung transplant. Temple provides online support groups for patients going through the transplant process, and for those who have had a transplant.

Breathing Buddies

We understand the decision to have a lung transplant can be scary. While our physicians and staff can answer your clinical questions, they have never "walked in your shoes." That's why we created the Breathing Buddies Program. Our Breathing Buddies are current patients of the Temple Lung Center. Some of our Breathing Buddies may have a condition similar to yours, may have had a lung transplant, and are willing to share their experience with you.

If you would like to be matched with a Breathing Buddy, email us at BreathingBuddies@templehealth.org or fill out this online form.

Find out if you’re eligible for a lung transplant. Request an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) to see a pulmonologist today.