Lung Transplant – Survival Rate, Statistics, Criteria


A lung transplant is a procedure wherein one or both diseased lungs are replaced or transplanted by a healthy lung or lungs from a donor.

Lung Transplant criteria

The donor may either be someone who is brain dead but on life support, or two or more living donors who can each give a segment of their lung. The donor/donors should be below 65 years of age. It is important to match the donor tissue as closely as possible to the patient tissue to avoid the probability of any rejection by the patient’s body, of the transplanted lung or lungs.

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Lung transplant procedure

The lung transplant operation is performed under general anesthesia to prevent pain. A surgical cut is then done on the chest. A heart-lung machine is used during the lung transplant surgery, which performs the function of the heart when the heart is stopped for the operation.

  • A single lung transplant takes about 4 to 8 hours and the cut is made on the side of the chest where the lung transplantation will take place. Generally, the worst affected lung is taken out.
  • A lung transplant of both lungs takes about 6 to 12 hours and the cut is made below the breast so as to remove both lungs.
  • Once the cut is made, one or both lungs are taken out. In patients undergoing double lung transplant, almost all the steps to transplant the first lung are finished before moving onto the next lung.
  • The airway and the major blood vessels of the new lung are stitched to the airway and main blood vessels of the patient. The donor lung is then sewn into the location. The transplanted lung/lungs need to re-expand completely after surgery. Hence, chest tubes are put in to drain out the fluid, air and blood for many days.

After the lung transplant surgery is complete, the patient may need to stay at the hospital for 7 to 21 days. Complete recovery from the lung transplant can take about six months. During the recovery period, the doctor will recommend regular checkups to verify the results of the lung transplant surgery.

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Lung transplant statistics

The 1 year survival rate is 83.6 percent, for five years, it is 53.5 percent. The survival rate for lung transplant patient for 10 years is 28.4 percent.  Transplanted lungs can work for 3 to 5 years well before showing any sign of breakdown. The statistics presented are based on findings as on 2008.

Lung transplant survival rate

  • The risks from the surgery include infection and bleeding
  • The risks from anesthesia include reactions to the drugs and breathing difficulties

Survival rate for lung transplant procedure refers to the percentage of patients who are alive for a particular period of time after the operation. The five year survival rate indicates the percentage of patients who survive for at least five years post lung transplant surgery.

  • The one year survival rate is four out of every five lung transplant patients (For both single and double lung transplant)
  • The five year survival rate is two out of every five lung transplant patients (For both single and double lung transplant)
  • The survival rate is generally affected by rejection of the lung by the body and rejection poses the greatest risk in the first year after lung transplant
  • The rejection of the transplanted lung takes place when the immune system considers the new lung as a potential invader and fights it off. Hence, patients of lung transplant are given anti-rejection drugs to suppress the immune system.
  • Intake of anti-rejection medications can impair the immune system and increase the risk to infections.
  • One in five patients may develop cardiac problems or cancers, five years after lung transplant. This can result in death
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