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Lung Transplant for Cystic Fibrosis

Surgery Overview

Lung transplant is an option for a few people who have severe lung problems that are caused by cystic fibrosis. The procedure removes the diseased lungs and replaces them with healthy lungs from a recently deceased donor.

Sometimes a procedure called a living-donor lobar lung transplant is performed while a person is waiting for a full lung transplant. In this procedure, the lower section (lobe) of one lung in each of two living donors (who may be related or unrelated to the person who has cystic fibrosis) is transplanted into the person who has cystic fibrosis. Because this complicated transplant involves two living donors, it is performed less often than other kinds of lung transplants.

What To Expect

After lung transplant surgery, you will be put on a ventilator. This is a machine that temporarily takes over the breathing process. If there are no complications, you will use the ventilator for 1 to 2 days.

You will likely need to stay in the hospital for 2 to 3 weeks after the transplant.

You'll need to take antibiotics and medicines to suppress your immune system. This will raise the chances that your body will accept the new lungs.

Why It Is Done

Some people who have severe lung damage that was caused by cystic fibrosis may get a lung transplant. Experts aren't sure if a lung transplant helps a child with cystic fibrosis live longer.footnote 1 People with mild or moderate disease don't usually get a transplant, because the risks are greater than the benefits.

How Well It Works

Several tests can help your doctor and you see how well a lung transplant or a living-donor lobar lung transplant might work. These tests include lung function tests, arterial blood gas tests, and exercise capacity.

  • About half of the people who receive a lung transplant survive at least 5 years after the procedure.footnote 2
  • People with cystic fibrosis have the same survival rate after a lung transplant as people who have lung transplants for other health problems.
  • Experts aren't sure if a lung transplant helps a child with cystic fibrosis live longer.footnote 1

Risks

The main risks of lung transplant are problems during the surgery and rejection of the donated organs. Infection and rejection of transplanted organs have similar symptoms, including fever, tiredness, and trouble breathing.

After a lung transplant, preventive antibiotic therapy starts right away. You will also take immunosuppressant medicines, usually for the rest of your life. Although immunosuppressant medicines raise the chances that your body will accept the new lungs, they also make it harder for your body to fight off infection.

References

Citations

  1. Liou TG, et al. (2007). Lung transplantation and survival in children with cystic fibrosis. New England Journal of Medicine, 357(21): 2143–2152. [Erratum in New England Journal of Medicine, 359(e6).]
  2. Health Resources and Services Administration (2009). 2009 Annual Report of the U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network and the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients: Transplant Data 1999–2008. Available online: http://www.ustransplant.org/annual_reports/current.

Credits

Current as of: February 10, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine
R. Steven Tharratt MD, MPVM, FACP, FCCP - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Medical Toxicology