What Is Lung Transplant Surgery?

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Lung transplantation is a medical-surgical procedure where surgeons replace a diseased lung (or lungs) with healthy lungs from an organ donor. Typically, surgeons recommend lung transplant therapy for patients who have severe lung disease that interferes with daily life.

Surgeons only recommend lung transplant surgery after all other medical and surgical options have been attempted.

University of Utah Health’s lung transplant program is the only program in the Mountain West that serves adult patients with advanced lung disease. We serve patients from all over the region and have performed transplant surgeries for patients from Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Arizona, and Montana.

Since our program started in 1992, we have performed more than 200 lung transplant surgeries.

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Lung Diseases & Transplant Surgery

Surgeons often perform lung transplant surgery for patients with the following diseases:

  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or emphysema, including emphysema resulting from Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD);
  • interstitial lung diseases (ILD), e.g. idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis or IPF, and other forms of ILD caused by conditions like scleroderma, rheumatoid disease, or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE);
  • cystic fibrosis (CF) and other forms of bronchiectasis not related to CF;
  • occupational or work-related lung diseases like silicosis, pneumoconiosis, or asbestosis;
  • pulmonary hypertension – including idiopathic pulmonary hypertension (previously called primary pulmonary hypertension) and secondary pulmonary hypertension;
  • sarcoidosis;
  • bronchiolitis obliterans;
  • and lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM).

Am I Eligible for Lung Transplant Surgery?

The decision to perform lung transplant surgery is complex. Surgical specialists must carefully consider the patient’s clinical history and overall health.

Through working together with you and your doctor, our transplant team will help you decide if lung transplant surgery is the best option for you.

In general, patients referred for lung transplant have advanced lung disease and need to use an oxygen tank (also called oxygen supplementation). These patients have lung – or pulmonary – limitations that interfere with basic daily activities.

A Careful Decision

Patients considering lung transplant surgery need to understand the pros and cons of the procedure. For example, patients must be able to take many medications for the rest of their lives. Patients should also have strong support from their family and friends before, during, and after the surgery.

If you are referred for lung transplant surgery, you also cannot use:

  • marijuana (cannabis),
  • tobacco,
  • or e-cigarettes or vaping

for at least six months before your evaluation.

During your evaluation, our team will perform comprehensive testing to make sure surgeons can perform your lung transplant surgery safely and that you have a good chance of benefitting from the procedure.

Curtis Watkins, lung transplant patient

Hear From Our Patients

A heavy smoker for 40 years, Curtis finally managed to quit in 2001 at age 58 thanks to his wife’s, Linda's, encouragement, his own determination, and a generous supply of nicotine gum and patches. “But it caught up with me,” said Curtis, who had developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that led to end-stage lung disease. Curtis found help at University of Utah Health's Lung Transplant Program.

Read Curtis's Story

Expert Care

Our highly skilled transplant team is responsible for our long history of success. We are committed to providing excellent care and finding better ways to treat advanced lung disease.

Our transplant physicians also offer in-depth clinical and scientific expertise in transplant medicine and surgery. Our multidisciplinary team has expertise in:

  • pulmonary medicine,
  • transplant surgery,
  • anesthesia,
  • pharmacy,
  • nursing,
  • social work,
  • financial planning,
  • and pulmonary rehabilitation.

We provide personalized, patient-centered care. Our team builds lifelong bonds with our patients, from the first pre-transplant visit through evaluation, transplant, and post-transplant care.

Our primary goal is to improve patients’ health and quality of life.