How Transplantation Works
October is Healthy Lung Month, a time to shine a light on the harm that can happen to lungs and increase overall awareness about lung disease. Currently, more than 1,000 people in the United States are on the waitlist for a lifesaving lung transplant, requiring lung transplant surgery.
According to the Organ Procurement Transplant Network, so far in 2023, 39 lung transplants have been performed locally, yet more than 100 people are still on the waiting list.
When is a lung transplant needed?
When damaged lungs can no longer be supported by medication or with breathing devices, or a patient’s lung function becomes life-threatening, they will need a transplant. Donate Life America explains how there are many diseases that can damage lungs enough to need a transplant. Diseases include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, scarring of the lungs, cystic fibrosis, sarcoidosis with advanced fibrosis, and pulmonary hypertension. Unhealthy or damaged lungs can make it difficult for the body to get the oxygen it needs to survive.
Step 1: Transplant Evaluation
First up, one will need to be evaluated to see if they qualify for a transplant. This evaluation will include both emotional and physical well-being tests.
Step 2: Lung Allocation Score
If one qualifies for a transplant, they will be given a score that determines their place on the waiting list. This is called the Lung Allocation Score (LAS). Many things play a part in this score, including severity of disease and organ function, age, etc.
Step 3: Waiting List Placement
Once someone is evaluated, they will receive their placement on the waiting list. Position on the waiting list can fluctuate depending on many factors, such as if someone lower on the list is a better match than someone up higher, the way a person’s health changes, and more.
Step 4: Transplant Surgery
Once a match is made, people on the waiting list will go into surgery. The length of the surgery will depend on whether the person is receiving a single or double lung transplant.
Step 5: Post-Transplant
Following lung transplant surgery, there are many things that the recipient will need to pay attention to. First, the recipient will start taking medications including anti-rejection medications. Depending on how long it takes the recipient to heal and adjust to the new lungs, they can spend up to a few weeks in the hospital. Diet, exercise, and pain management following the transplant are very important to pay attention to as well.
Meet Mike, lung transplant recipient:
For Healthy Lung Month, Mike Todd, a lung recipient and donor family member, sat down for an interview with us. Mike received his lung transplant just about 6 years ago. In the following video, Mike gives insight into how life is as a lung recipient.
Did you know signing up to be an organ, eye and tissue donor means you have the potential to donate and save someone who needs a lung transplant? Show your support for Healthy Lung Month and to all of the members of our community who are fighting against lung disease by signing up as a donor. Signing up is easy! Simply say ‘Yes’ the next time you get your driver license or state ID or sign up anytime online at DonateLifeColorado.org.