Lung Transplant

What is lung transplant?

A lung transplant is an operation in which diseased lungs are replaced with a healthy replacement pair from a deceased donor. Sometimes, only one lung will be transplanted, but in most cases, the transplant surgeon will replace both.

The lungs serve an essential function in providing oxygenation to all body tissues. If your child has severe end-stage lung disease that no longer responds to treatment, a lung transplant might be an option to offer a longer and healthier life.

What conditions may lead to lung transplant?

Diseases and conditions that end in a lung transplant often differ between children and adults. Among adults, many conditions that lead to lung transplants include chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, such as emphysema. For children, teens and young adults, the most common condition is cystic fibrosis. Other conditions include:

Evaluation for lung transplant

The evaluation for lung transplant is quite extensive. Prior to an evaluation, your child will come in for an informational visit to meet the transplant team members and discuss the option of lung transplant. This is an opportunity to ask questions and share any concerns. Families are encouraged to bring close friends to this initial meeting.

If the family and the transplant team agree that a lung transplant would be beneficial, then your child will be scheduled for an evaluation. In general, the evaluation is conducted over the course of four to five days at the hospital.

The evaluation is usually done as an outpatient, but it can be completed while inpatient if your child is admitted for another reason. During the evaluation, they will undergo a number of tests and meet with several specialists.

Your child’s specialists will order different tests to rule out infections, determine functionality of organs and make sure a donor match is compatible. These types of tests may include:

  • pulmonary function tests (PFT) to measure lung volume and the rate of airflow in the lungs
  • chest x-rays to evaluate the lungs
  • CT scan to examine the chest and sinuses
  • blood tests to determine blood type (a donor and recipient must have compatible blood)
  • electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) to examine the heart’s electrical activity
  • echocardiogram (cardiac ultrasound) to evaluate the heart function
  • cardiac catheterization to view the heart and blood vessels
  • lung biopsy to learn more about the lung condition

Some tests will check for exposure to viruses, bacteria and infections including:

Other kinds of tests:

  • liver and kidney function tests
  • abdominal ultrasound to look for masses, obstructions and structural abnormalities in your child’s abdomen and to assess your child’s liver
  • bone densitometry to determine the density of your child's bones
  • nocturnal oximetry to monitor oxygenation during sleep

After these consultations and tests, the transplant team will meet as a group to determine whether your child is a good candidate for a lung transplant. Our comprehensive approach to care ensures that your child’s case will be given thoughtful discussion of every treatment possibility.