While progress has been made in the treatment of pulmonary hypertension (PH), unfortunately there is still no cure for this disease.
When PH worsens, despite medical treatments, one option to consider is lung transplantation.
At the UPMC Comprehensive Pulmonary Hypertension Program, we often will discuss the idea of lung transplant early, even if it may not be necessary for some time.
Our pulmonologists work with experts in the UPMC Lung Transplant Program, who have been performing transplants since 1988. Our lung transplant survival rates in people with PH are better than the national average.
We're also one of the few centers to transplant a large number of people who have scleroderma-associated PH, and have demonstrated good outcomes.
Potential Risks of Lung Transplant Surgery for Pulmonary Hypertension
We emphasize to patients that lung transplant surgery brings with it potential risks as well as benefits.
Surgical risks include (but are not limited to):
- Failure to wean from the ventilator and failure to wean from oxygen
PH Candidates for Lung Transplant
Because of the risks, people must have a thorough evaluation to make sure they are good candidates for lung transplant. The evaluation process takes about a week for outpatient testing and clinic visits.
After collecting all of the data, the lung transplant team discusses each person’s case of PH. At this meeting, the team decides to put the patient on the transplant waiting list or gather more data if necessary.
The team notifies patients and referring doctors of all decisions, working together on a treatment plan following the transplant evaluation.
If suitable for transplant, patients must follow up closely with our center and inform their nurse coordinator of any changes in their health.
Life After a Lung Transplant
The goal of lung transplant is to help return people with pulmonary hypertension to a better quality of life.
We discontinue their PH medications in the operating room, or soon after. We'll do a bronchoscopy the next day to check for rejection or infection. If we find either of these problems, we will treat them.
Most people are in the hospital for 3 to 4 weeks, and stay in the Pittsburgh area for at least another month — if they're from out of town — after discharge.
When leaving the hospital after lung transplant, people will::
- Have a new regimen for taking medicines at specific times of the day to suppress the immune system.
- Take these medicines for the rest of their lives to help prevent the body from rejecting their new lung.
- Need frequent blood work — often weekly for the first few months after transplant.
- Have routine follow-up appointments and testing for the duration of their transplant care.
Lung transplant follow-up visits involve:
- Pulmonary function tests
- Chest x-rays
- Bronchoscopies every two to three months for at least the first two years after transplant
Learn more about the UPMC Lung Transplant Program.