- Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion Helps Make More Lungs Available for Transplants
"Up to 20% of lungs that were otherwise deemed unusable can become usable by assessment in ex vivo lung perfusion." – Daniel Dilling, MD
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Exceptional Outcomes for Lung Transplant Patients since 1988
Since Loyola’s lung transplant program started in 1988, we have performed more than 1,000 lung and heart-lung transplants. Our transplant pulmonologists and surgeons are widely regarded and highly experienced in treating the most challenging cases. In fact, Loyola is the only transplant center in the United States to perform five lung transplants in the span of a day, showing the dedication, drive and talent of our team. Whether you need a heart-lung, double-lung or single-lung transplant, Loyola’s highly skilled transplant team will provide the most advanced care.
Loyola’s pulmonology & lung surgery is ranked among the top 50 in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Our transplant team takes on the most complicated cases; so if you’ve been turned down by another transplant center, consider getting a second opinion at Loyola.
What Is Lung Transplant Surgery?
A lung transplant is surgery to remove one or both damaged or diseased lungs and replace them with healthy donor lungs. Preparation for a lung transplant is an extensive process and includes a detailed evaluation, a search for donor lungs, the transplant surgery and a recovery period.
Lung transplant surgery may be a life-saving treatment for individuals with end-stage lung failure or lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, interstitial lung disease (ILD), LAM and pulmonary hypertension. It is an extensive surgery most often used when other medications and surgical procedures do not work to treat your condition.
At Loyola, you will have an entire team on your side, including your transplant pulmonologist, transplant cardiothoracic surgeon, anesthesiologists, pre- and post-transplant nurse coordinators, nurse practitioners, procurement nurses, radiologists, transplant chaplains, physical therapists, infectious disease specialists, dietitians, financial coordinators, clinical pharmacists, social workers and psychologists. We have one goal: restoring you to better health.
What are the Different Types of Lung Transplants?
Lung transplant patients can benefit from three kinds of transplants:
- Single-lung transplant — One diseased or damaged lung is removed and replaced with a healthy donated lung. This surgery is beneficial for patients with pulmonary fibrosis, among other diseases. However, it is not used as a treatment for patients with cystic fibrosis, because the condition will spread from the diseased lung to the donated lung.
- Double-lung transplant — Both damaged or diseased lungs are removed and replaced with a healthy set of donated lungs. This is considered the optimal treatment for patients with cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Heart-lung transplant — The damaged or diseased heart and lungs are removed and replaced with a healthy donated heart and a set of lungs. This is often the recommended therapy for people with severe pulmonary hypertension.
With the goal of bringing life-saving lung transplant surgery to more patients, Loyola recently participated in a clinical trial to increase the number of donor lungs suitable for transplant. This innovative technique is called ex vivo lung perfusion (EVLP).
What Diseases are Treated with Lung Transplant?
Loyola’s pulmonologists and transplant surgeons are well-versed in all forms of lung disease. Your healthcare team will first explore conservative treatments. If your condition is not well controlled with other methods, a lung transplant may be the best medical option. Some lung conditions that may require a lung transplant include:
Evaluation and Wait List for Lung Transplants
The Loyola transplant team will guide you through the evaluation and lung transplant process. Your pulmonologist will take a detailed personal and medical history before conducting a physical examination. Several tests will be ordered to assess the status of your health. We will be there with you every step of the way, informing you of your test results and next steps.
The Medical Review Board will discuss your case and decide whether you are a good candidate for lung transplant. If so, you will be placed on the national waiting list with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). The wait time for deceased-donor organs depends on many factors, including medical urgency, compatibility to the donor and geography (organs are matched within the same region whenever possible). We encourage patient and family participation in our lung transplant support group, which is designed to assist in providing resources, tools, and encouragement to those affected during this stressful time.
To learn more, read our lung transplant frequently asked questions.
Surgery and Recovery
Lung Transplant Surgery and Recovery
Upon arrival, you will undergo final tests for infection, fever and other conditions. In the operating room you will receive general anesthesia and be set up for an IV. You also will be put on a Foley catheter to manage urine production. Most lung transplant surgeries are completed without the use of the heart-lung bypass machine, which can spare post-transplant patients from certain complications. Lung transplant surgery usually lasts four to six hours.
During the surgery, your surgeon will remove the diseased lung or lungs and position the donated tissue. Your surgeon will connect the pulmonary artery, pulmonary vein and the airway of the donor lung or lungs to your blood vessels and airway. Tubes to drain fluid, blood and air will be inserted and will remain for several days after surgery.
You will be closely monitored post-surgery, and your nurses will assess your pain and administer medication to make you comfortable. You will have a breathing tube and catheter as you recover from transplant surgery. Your nurses will ask you to do some deep breathing exercises and coughing to prevent complications. If needed, physical therapists will work with you to get you walking. Many lung transplant recipients go home after 15 days, but each patient’s case is unique.
You will be prescribed immunosuppression medications to prevent transplant rejection. Within the first day, you may notice the difference the transplant can make. Your nurse coordinator will map out your lab tests and doctor visits to assess the function of your new organs. You will have several appointments in the first year after surgery, but gradually your primary care doctor will start to take over your care. However, your transplant care team is your partner for life and is available around the clock should you have a question or concern. Please call us at 708-327-5864 or 800-424-6313.
Complete recovery time varies from patient to patient, but most lung transplant patients are able to return to their studies or work after six months.
We encourage you and your family members to participate in our lung transplant support group, throughout the process of ill help as you recovery.
To learn more, read our lung transplant frequently asked questions.
What are the Risks of Lung Transplant Surgery?
With any surgery there are risks; in the case of lung transplant surgery, these may include:
Pre- and Post-Lung Transplant Care in Your Community
Loyola understands that receiving care close to home makes life easier, which is why we provide care for patients with lung disease in four convenient locations:
- Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine in Maywood
- Loyola Medicine Oakbrook Terrace
- Loyola Jack Felts Hepatology Clinic Peoria
- Loyola Outpatient Center in Maywood
Services available at these centers vary and may include:
- Care for patients with pulmonary hypertension
- Care for recently discharged patients
- Care for pediatric patients
- Diagnostic services, such as MRIs, X-rays, sonograms, non-invasive echocardiograms, electrocardiograms, ultrasounds and diagnostic angiograms
- New patient, wait list and established patient visits
- Walk-in patients/sick visits
Ongoing Clinical Trials to Advance Lung Transplant Research
Loyola’s lung transplant program is the only one in the state of Illinois to receive funding from the National Institutes of Health for lung transplant research.
Loyola was one of six centers in the United States that participated in a clinical trial that used a technology called Ex vivo lung perfusion (EVLP) remotely. EVLP is an innovative technique that is applied before transplantation, infusing nutrients into the lungs and reducing swelling, making the organ more suitable for transplant. The success of this trial contributes to the argument that a central location for such technology is feasible and effective, eliminating the need for individual hospitals to have an EVLP machine on-site.
We have many research programs underway, including clinical trials for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, LAM, Ex vivo lung perfusion for donor lungs before transplantation, effects of alcohol on acute lung injury, Hermansky Pudlak Syndrome, pulmonary hypertension, cystic fibrosis, and the effects of donor alcohol use on the health of lungs used for transplantation.