A doctor speaking with a patient at his desk.

Key facts

  • A lung transplant replaces the damaged lungs with a donor’s lungs and can help improve your quality of life
  • It is a major operation with risks involved that should be discussed with your healthcare team
  • Only a small number of people are eligible for a lung transplant

In lung transplantation, one or both damaged lungs are replaced with the lungs from a donor. It may be offered if the disease is quickly progressing or very severe. A lung transplant may improve your quality of life and help you live longer. 

Your doctor may enroll you on the lung transplantation list early on once you get diagnosed. This is because it’s hard to find lung donors and also to help ensure you are considered for transplant in case you have an exacerbation and experience rapid decline in your lung health. 

However, it is a major operation that carries serious risks. A number of factors may make it unsuitable for certain patients, such as non-curable infections or substance addiction. After a lung transplantation, you will need to take certain medicines for the rest of your life.

Lung transplantation is unfortunately not a cure. It is a decision that is not to be taken lightly and needs careful consideration and assessment. Not everyone with pulmonary fibrosis is eligible for a lung transplant – some patients may have other co-existing conditions, such as high blood pressure, that make a lung transplant impossible. Many programs have an upper age limit between 60 and 65 years. There are also only a very small number of donor organs available for transplantation. Therefore, even if you are eligible, you may need to join a long waiting list for a transplant.

This means that very few patients with pulmonary fibrosis will receive a transplant. However, it can be a good option for a small number of patients.

Quick Tip

If you think you could be eligible for a lung transplant, make sure you speak to your healthcare team. They will have a complete picture of the different aspects of your health and will be able to start the process if you are eligible.

What to consider before talking to your healthcare team about a lung transplant

  • You must be in good overall health with no other life-threatening illnesses such as kidney failure, heart failure, heart disease or cancer
  • You need to have stopped smoking for at least six months before a transplant.
    You may have to take tests to confirm you are no longer smoking
  • Your alcohol intake should be minimal
  • You need to be able to take different types of medications to ensure the success of your lung transplant
  • You must be at a healthy body weight

Your healthcare team may address the possibility of a lung transplant as early as the time of diagnosis. They will assess whether you meet all the criteria for a lung transplant and will discuss the potential risks and benefits with you.

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