Living Donation

Lung Transplant Surgery Frequently Asked Questions

Download the UPMC Lung Transplant Program Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) PDF.

You can be referred to the UPMC Lung Transplant program by:

  • A referral from your doctor
  • Referring yourself

For more information on what is needed to be referred, please visit the lung transplant patient data sheet. Patient information can be faxed to 412-864-5913.

Every insurance plan is different. We work with transplant credit analysts who can help you understand what parts of your medical care will be covered.

For patients without insurance, the cost of a lung transplant can vary, depending on multiple factors. If a potential candidate wishes to discuss estimated cost, he or she will be given contact information for patient business services, and a transplant credit analyst.

All patients are considered on a case by case basis and age and weight are only two of many factors.

UPMC does not have an upper age limit for lung transplant and considers the risks and benefits for each patient separately. In general, patients over age 70 must have a limited number of other medical problems to be candidates for lung transplant.

To be scheduled for an evaluation, a candidate’s BMI (body mass index) must be 35 or less. There is currently no minimum BMI requirement.

To be scheduled for lung transplant evaluation, a candidate must be nicotine-free for a minimum of four months. This includes:

  • Cigarettes
  • Cigars
  • Smokeless tobacco
  • E-cigarettes
  • Nicotine patches or gum
  • Any other form of pharmaceutical nicotine

A candidate must be nicotine free for six months to be placed on the waiting list for lung transplantation.

Patients with a history of cancer should be treated and cured of their cancer at least five years before they have a transplant.

However, there are a couple of exceptions including:

  • Stage 1a colon cancer
  • Intraductal breast cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Superficial skin cancers

Patients with these types of cancer will be evaluated individually.

Our experts review the case of every patient who is referred to us. We will consider you for lung transplantation even if you have been previously turned down at a different center.

UPMC can often use the results from testing done at other medical centers, but requires that you are seen by our physicians and the rest of our transplant team.

The outpatient lung transplant evaluation takes four to five days of appointments and testing to complete. It always starts on a Monday.

Patients will have consultations with members of the transplant team, including:

  • Pulmonologist
  • Transplant surgeon
  • Social worker
  • Coordinator

The evaluation also includes:

  • A lung transplant education class
  • Diagnostic testing, such as pulmonary function tests (PFTs),6 minute walk test, x-rays, and heart testing
  • Special blood work

The tests and consultations are done to determine if lung transplant is a good treatment option.

No. We require all candidates to be accompanied by a primary caregiver. The evaluation is physically demanding and it would be difficult for someone with lung disease to get from one appointment, test, or location to another without assistance, or help with their equipment.

It is also important for the primary caregiver to:

  • Attend the pre-transplant education class
  • Meet with the members of the transplant team
  • Learn what to expect as a potential caregiver post-transplant

Being a caregiver is a big commitment, and the team will not advocate listing if a candidate does not have strong caregiver support.

Waiting times are difficult to predict and highly variable, from a day to over a year. The average waiting time is a few months.

UPMC does offer “bloodless” transplants for certain candidates. Strict medical requirements must be met.

For candidates interested in this option, medical records are reviewed to determine whether the candidate meets the requirements for evaluation. During the transplant evaluation, a consultation is arranged with the Bloodless Medicine team.

Yes, we use this machine as part of research protocols and can talk to you about enrolling you in a trial if you are interested.

We require our patients who are waiting for a lung transplant to be able to get to Pittsburgh within four hours. Many people drive, but some patients arrange private flights to Pittsburgh. Your social worker can give you more information about flights.

If you are NOT able to get to Pittsburgh within four hours by car or flight, we ask that you move closer to our center.

Most patients stay in the hospital for about three weeks. Some patients need to stay longer if they have had a problem with their transplant.

After transplant, patients are asked to live within one hour of our hospital for 2-3 months after the date of the transplant, depending on progress. During this time, you must have a dedicated caregiver living with you at all times.

You will be seen by your lung transplant doctor at least every two months. At each two-day visit you will:

  • Meet with your lung transplant doctor
  • Do pulmonary function tests that measure how well your new lungs are working
  • Have your blood work checked
  • Get a chest x-ray
  • Have a bronchoscopy, a procedure that uses a thin tube to look for infection and rejection in your new lungs

Our team at UPMC will take care of you for at least the first year after transplant, and ideally for life. In some special circumstances, you may be able to find a local transplant center that can help take care of you.

Visit the Scientific Registry for Transplant Recipients website for more information on the program's survival and success rate. The average five year survival rate is approximately 55 percent.

The median survival rate is approximately seven years after transplant, and varies from a few days to over 20 years.

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC offers lung transplantation for children who are suffering with a life-threatening lung disease, including cystic fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension. Our experts perform double and single lung transplants