Lung Transplant Can Extend Life Expectancy

A lung transplant is generally recommended when respiratory failure is advanced despite maximal medical therapy.

For many patients, a lung transplant is lifesaving and not only extends their life expectancy but improves their quality of life.

The lung transplant survival rate one year after transplant is 88 percent.

After 3 years, the lung transplant survival rate is 73 percent.

The 5-year lung transplant survival rate is 60 percent.

Possible Complications

A successful lung transplant depends on many factors, including pre and peri-operative surgical complications. The transplant team at Newark Beth Israel is committed to clinical excellence while providing the most up-to-date care for our patients.

Some common complications that develop after a lung transplant include:

  • Infection. Because transplant patients take medications to suppress their immune system, they are vulnerable to developing complications from infections. Patients are closely monitored for signs of a potentially serious infection. Early and aggressive treatment can be life-saving.
  • Rejection. Despite immunosuppression, acute rejection can occur in some circumstances. Lung function is monitored to identify and treat possible rejection.
  • Side effects of immunotherapy. High blood pressure, kidney injury, osteoporosis, weight gain and diabetes are potential side effects of immunotherapy. Medications are available to help manage these side effects, but a healthy lifestyle, proper diet and exercise are equally important.

Life After a Lung Transplant

Newark Beth Israel lung transplant patients receive guidance, support, and advice with regard to:

  • Office visits. Patients are expected to return to the Newark Beth Israel Medical Center Lung Transplant office on a weekly basis after discharge. Laboratory work, spirometry (breathing test) and a chest X-ray occur at each visit. The frequency of ongoing clinic visits is based on a patient’s recovery process.
  • Immunosuppressant therapy. Patients are treated with immune-suppressing drugs to prevent rejection. These medications usually require frequent adjustments, especially immediately following the transplant. Taking these medications properly is essential in preventing rejection. The immune system is less likely to attack the new donor lung. Antibiotics are prescribed with these medications to prevent infection. Drug doses are progressively lowered as the body becomes more tolerant of the new lung.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation. Lung transplant patients can be deconditioned by their pre-transplant illness. Pulmonary rehabilitation provides a safe environment and a more rapid return to becoming conditioned, independent, and mobile. It may be prescribed before patients are discharged from the hospital and during recovery.
  • Lifestyle modifications. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle helps patients enjoy the benefits of a lung transplant, like a more normal and active life. Diet, exercise and reducing stress play a role in optimizing the lung transplant success rate and results.

Some immunosuppressant drugs may increase the risk of developing diabetes. The body may respond differently to certain foods, leading to post-transplant diabetes mellitus (PTDM).

Diabetic risk factors, especially those that can be controlled, should be considered. Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and reducing stress are highly encouraged.

After a successful recovery, patients are monitored by their primary care physician along with the transplant team. They provide physical examinations, follow the results of blood tests, and manage preventative healthcare and screenings. This helps guide care after a transplant and detect potential problems early.

Patient Stories

  • “It is a gift of life. Everyone in my family is now signed up as an organ donor.”

    Eileen
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  • Cared for by Newark Beth Israel Medical Center’s Advanced Lung Disease, Neonatal and Obstetrics Critical Care Teams

    Fabienne and Nathaniel
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  • “I promised her [granddaughter] that I would make her 6th birthday party and I did. And here it is 5 years later and I'm still here, thanks to the hospital, doctors and everybody else.”

    Robert
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Patient Stories

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