Getting a Lung Transplant
When medications, supplemental oxygen or other treatments are not enough to manage lung disease, it may be time for a lung transplant evaluation. At UNC Medical Center, you receive compassionate, high-quality care from nationally recognized lung transplant experts. Our surgeons perform a high number of lung transplants every year. This experience improves the odds of a successful outcome for you.
What Causes Lung Failure?
Certain lung conditions make it harder to breathe and increase the need for a lung transplant:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema
- Cystic fibrosis (genetic lung disease)
- Pulmonary fibrosis (scarring of lungs)
- Pulmonary hypertension (increased pressure in lung arteries)
- Sarcoidosis (lung inflammation)
Lung Transplant Screenings
The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) maintains the waiting list for lung transplants. Before you can be placed on this list, you must complete numerous medical tests, such as:
- Physical exam with blood tests
- Bone density scan
- Cardiac catheterization
- Chest X-ray
- Lung function tests to assess air intake
- Lung perfusion scan to measure air and blood flow in the lungs
- Mental health assessment
Getting on the Lung Transplant Waiting List
After you receive the OK for a lung transplant, your transplant coordinator registers you on the national waiting list. Transplant wait times depend on many factors, including blood type, body size and health status.
If you are declined for a lung transplant, do not despair. We can help. We created the Early-Staged Transplant Education Program (ESTEP) to help people become eligible for a lung transplant.
Early Staged Transplant Education Program (ESTEP)
Lung transplant patients must meet certain criteria to help ensure the best outcomes and meet national waiting list standards. Common factors that can make a person ineligible for a lung transplant include:
- Being underweight or overweight
- Using commonly prescribed medications, such as narcotic pain medications and sedatives like Ativan®
At UNC Medical Center, we want you to receive the transplant you need to live longer. We understand that it can be challenging to meet certain transplant requirements. Our experts guide you through the steps to improve your chances of getting on the transplant waiting list. We connect you with:
- Dietitians to help you reach an acceptable weight
- Providers who help you safely stop using certain medications
- Pulmonary rehabilitation therapists who build up your strength and stamina
- Mental health professionals who provide support
- Lung specialists who prepare you for what to expect during and after a transplant
Family Support Services
Our dedicated transplant coordinators offer the support you and your family need during this challenging time. A coordinator is available 24/7 to address concerns and answer questions.
You also have access to a patient support team that can help with billing issues, mental health counseling and other services.