In a lung transplantation, one or both damaged lungs are replaced with the lungs from a donor. It may be offered if the disease is quickly worsening or very severe.1 A lung transplant may improve your quality of life and help you live longer.1,2
However, it is a major operation which carries serious risks. A number of reasons may make it unsuitable for certain patients, such as non-curable infections or substance addiction.1 After a lung transplantation, you will need to take certain medicines for the rest of your life.
Lung transplantation is unfortunately not a cure for IPF. It is a decision that is not to be taken lightly and needs careful consideration and assessment.
Not everyone with IPF is eligible for a lung transplant – some patients may have other co-existing diseases and conditions, such as high blood pressure, that make a lung transplant impossible. Many programmes have an upper age limit between 60 and 65 years. There are also only a very small number of donor organs available for transplantation.1,3-5 Therefore, even if you are eligible, you may need to join a long waiting list for a transplant.
This means that very few patients with IPF will receive a transplant. However, it can be a good option for a small number of patients.
If you think you could be eligible for a lung transplant, make sure you speak to your treatment team. They will have a complete picture of the different aspects of your health and will be able start the process if you are eligible
The goals of lung transplantation are to improve the longevity and quality of your life.1
What to consider before talking to your treatment team about a lung transplant1,6
- You must be in good overall health with no other life-threatening illnesses such as kidney failure, heart failure, heart disease or cancer
- You need to have stopped smoking for at least six months before a transplant. You may have to take tests to confirm you are no longer smoking
- Your alcohol intake should be minimal
- You need to be able to take different types of medications to ensure the success of your lung transplant
- You must be at a healthy bodyweight
Your treatment team may address the possibility of a lung transplant as early as the time of diagnosis. They will assess whether you meet all the criteria for a lung transplant and will discuss the potential risks and benefits with you.
A lung transplant replaces the damaged lungs with those from a donor and can help improve your quality of life
It is a major operation with risks involved that should be discussed with your treatment team
Only a small number of people are eligible for a lung transplant
Orens JB, et al. International guidelines for the selection of lung transplant candidates: 2006 update - a consensus report from the Pulmonary Scientific Council of the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation. J Heart Lung Transplant Off Publ Int Soc Heart Transplant 2006; 25:745–755.
Thabut G, et al. Survival benefit of lung transplantation for patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 2003; 126:469–475.
Meltzer EB, et al. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Orphanet J Rare Dis 2008; 3:8.
Raghu G, et al. An official ATS/ERS/JRS/ALAT Clinical Practice Guideline: Treatment of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. An Update of the 2011 Clinical Practice Guideline. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2015; 192: e3-19.
Courtwright A, et al. Lung transplantation in elderly patients. J Thorac Dis 2017; 9:3346-3351.
NHS Choices. Lung transplant preparation. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/lung-transplant/preparation/#why-a-lung-transplant-might-be-unsuitable. [Accessed April 04, 2018].
I think many of the things one does to stay healthy with IPF are the same things that one does to stay healthy in general