Lung Transplant and COPD: The Connection

by | Nov 24, 2014 | COPD, Lung Transplant

The Need For A New Pair of Lungs

All month long we have been talking about COPD and trying to answer the most often asked questions associated with this disease. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a progressive form of lung disease ranging from mild to severe. It is characterized by a restriction of airflow into and out of the lungs that makes breathing difficult. COPD is the umbrella term for sufferers who have been diagnosed with or show signs of emphysema and/or chronic bronchitis.Many patients have trouble walking short distances and are especially susceptible to illness and pneumonia. Often, sufferers need oxygen support for 24 hours a day. If you show signs of emphysema or chronic bronchitis you may have COPD. Long term, the effects of COPD result in an enlargement of the right side of the heart and eventual death.

There is no cure for COPD but treatment options are available to prevent more damage and improve quality of life. In some cases, there may come a point where treatments don’t work anymore and the need for a new pair of lungs is required. At the end stage of COPD, a doctor may recommend the need for a lung transplant. So what is the exact connection between a lung transplant and COPD?

What Is A Lung Transplant?

A lung transplant is exactly what is sounds like it might be. After finding a donor match, diseased lung tissue is removed and replaced with healthy lung tissue. And unlike a heart transplant where a total new organ is implanted, part or total, one or both of the lungs can be transplanted. For the most part, donor lung tissue comes from someone who died but a tissue match is also possible when a nonsmoking and healthy person can donate a lobe of one of their lungs. Since COPD is such a progressive disease, the lungs will start to loose function and eventually shut down.

The biggest factor when it comes to prognosis following a lung transplant, actually any organ transplant for that matter, is the effectiveness of anti-rejection drugs.  Over the years as the medications improved, lung transplant recipients have been living longer. Unfortunately, like the situation with lung disease itself whereby for the most part there is no cure, the possible rejection of the new lung is never fully eliminated.

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the current rate of survival 1 year after a lung transplant is 78 percent and after 5 years, it is 52 percent. In addition, surprisingly enough the survival rate for a double lung transplant is better than a single transplanted lung.

Lung Transplant and COPD

As we mentioned before, COPD causes the lungs to slowly breakdown overtime and in most cases requires the need for a new set of lungs. Lung diseases have a very negative effect on the body, eventually leading to the need for medical treatment to relieve symptoms. Transplants are usually given to COPD patients that have very severe symptoms, difficulty breathing all of the time and are not longer responding to medical treatment. These are some of the qualifications according to the Respiratory Health Association in Chicago:

  • Severe COPD
  • Under the age of 65
  • Quit smoking
  • A healthy support group
  • Not currently using drugs or alcohol
  • Follow the procedure and treatment to the letter

Asking your doctor about a lung transplant for your COPD is the best option. The wait on a lung transplant list can be very long and leave many with COPD with little hope of actually getting a new pair of lungs. Depending upon the wait, it can take up to 1 or 2 years.

There might be hope in the form of cellular therapy to help improve lung function. Of course, if you are a patient suffering from COPD, then cellular therapy could be for you! If you would like to find out more about our available treatment options, please contact one of our patient care coordinators today at 888-745-6697 to schedule a free consultation.

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