UPMC Lung Transplant Program Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What do I need to do to get the lung transplant process at UPMC started?
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 patient data sheet. Patient information can be faxed to 412-864-5913.
Who covers the cost of a lung transplant?
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.
Are there age and weight restrictions for a lung transplant?
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.
Do I have to quit smoking or using other nicotine replacement products before my transplant?
To be scheduled for lung transplant evaluation, a candidate must be nicotine-free for a minimum of four months. This includes:
- Smokeless tobacco
- 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.
Do I have to be cancer free before I have a lung transplant?
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.
Will UPMC still evaluate me for a lung transplant if I was turned down by another center?
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.
What should I expect at an outpatient lung evaluation?
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:
- Transplant surgeon
- Social worker
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.
Can I come to the transplant evaluation alone?
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 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.
How long are the waiting times if I get listed?
Waiting times are difficult to predict and highly variable, from a day to over a year. The average waiting time is a few months.
Does UPMC offer “bloodless” lung transplant surgery?
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.
Do you have the “ex-vivo” lung machine?
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.
Do I have to move to Pittsburgh to have a lung transplant at UPMC?
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.
How often do I see my doctor post-transplant?
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 which 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 thin tube to look for infection and rejection in your new lungs
After I go home, can I have my follow up care with a local lung transplant center?
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.
What are the survival and success rates of the UPMC Lung Transplant program?
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.