Why it's done

Unhealthy or damaged lungs can make it difficult for your body to get the oxygen it needs to survive. A variety of diseases and conditions can damage your lungs and hinder their ability to function effectively, including:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema
  • Scarring of the lungs (pulmonary fibrosis)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Lymphangioleiomyomatosis
  • Severe bronchiectasis

Lung damage can often be treated with medication or with special breathing devices. But when these measures no longer help or your lung function becomes life-threatening, your doctor might suggest a single-lung transplant or a double-lung transplant.

Some people with coronary artery disease may need a procedure to restore blood flow to a blocked or narrowed artery in the heart, in addition to a lung transplant. In some cases, people with serious heart and lung conditions may need a heart-lung transplant.

Factors that may affect your eligibility for a lung transplant

A lung transplant isn't the right treatment for everyone. Certain factors may mean you're not a good candidate for a lung transplant. While each case is considered individually by a transplant center, a lung transplant may not be appropriate if you:

  • Have an active infection
  • Have a recent personal medical history of cancer
  • Have serious diseases such as kidney, liver or heart diseases
  • Are unwilling or unable to make lifestyle changes necessary to keep your donor lung healthy, such as not drinking alcohol or not smoking
  • Do not have a supportive network of family and friends