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Lung Transplant

Lung Transplant FAQs

What is a lung transplant?
A lung transplant is a surgical procedure where one or both of you lungs are removed and replaced with the lung or lungs from an organ donor. This is a complex major operation. A transplant operation is only considered when the available medical treatment has been tried without success.


What distinguishes the lung transplant program at Barnes-Jewish Hospital?

In 1988, Barnes-Jewish hospital became one of the first hospitals in the United States with a program fully dedicated to lung transplantation. More than 1,100 adult lung transplant operations have been performed, making our program one of the most active lung transplant centers in the world. The lung transplant program at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University Medical Center has been a pioneer in new strategies such as single lung transplantation for emphysema and pulmonary hypertension and in gold-standard techniques such as the bilateral sequential approach to double lung transplantation.

How many lung transplants are performed at Barnes-Jewish Hospital each year?
Over the past 10 years Barnes-Jewish Hospital has performed an average of 55 transplants a year making us one of the most active lung transplant programs in the world. Barnes-Jewish Hospital is the only adult lung transplant programs in the state of Missouri.

What are the survival rates?
The lung transplant program at Barnes-Jewish Hospital consistently produces patient and graft survival rates that exceed the national average. View the outcomes of lung transplantation.

How can I find out if I'm a candidate for a lung transplant?
The first step in the process is to have your local physician send us copies of some of your current medical information. The information we would need includes the following:

  • Patient name, address and phone number
  • Recent height and weight
  • Date of birth
  • Letter or note from physician outlining medical history
  • Reports from any recent chest x-rays or CT scans
  • Most recent pulmonary function tests as well as some from the past
  • Copies of any recent lab tests
  • Pathology reports from any lung biopsies
  • List of current medications
  • Results from any previous heart catheterization or any other heart tests

This information will be reviewed by one of our transplant nurse coordinators along with one of our pulmonary physicians. If an evaluation seems appropriate we will contact you directly.

How do I schedule a lung transplant evaluation?
If after reviewing your records, and a transplant evaluation seems appropriate, you will be contacted by one of the transplant nurse coordinators who will review your medical history with you and assist you in scheduling the evaluation. For more information on the lung transplant program at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, call 314-TOP-DOCS (314-867-3627) or toll-free 866-867-3627.

What happens during the transplant evaluation?
The evaluation consists of four days of testing and consultations. The testing is done on an outpatient basis, so you will not be hospitalized. Upon arrival at our office you will be given a schedule of all your tests. It will be essential that someone accompany you to the evaluation so they can assist you in getting to and from your appointments.

Is oxygen available at the hospital for me during my evaluation?
You will need to contact your oxygen supplier and inform them of your trip to St. Louis. You will need to bring a portable oxygen supply to the hospital with you on the days of your testing. You should plan to be at the hospital for about eight hours each day. You are welcome to  use whatever type of oxygen system you currently use while here. However, we can only provide refills of liquid systems as described:  We have the ability to refill some portable liquid oxygen systems. In order to refill your oxygen here at the hospital, your delivery system must use liquid oxygen and must be compatible with a Puritan Bennett system. Your oxygen provider can tell you if your current system would be compatible.

When will I know if I can have a transplant?
Once the testing is complete, the members of the transplant team will review all of the information from your testing. Following this meeting, one of the transplant physicians and nurses will meet with you and your family to discuss our findings and recommendations.

What does it mean to be "on the list"?
The "list" is maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). This is a national list containing the names and other important medical information of all the people in the United States who are waiting for organ transplants. If the transplant team determines that you are eligible for a lung transplant, your name and information will be added to the list.  This information is used when organs from deceased donors become available to find the best possible match among those patients on the waiting list.

How far away can I live while I wait?
You will need to be close enough that you can get to the hospital within two and one half hours of being called. Therefore, some patients will need to temporarily relocate to the St. Louis area while they wait. In some cases, we may recommend that you relocate to the St. Louis area due to your medical condition or other factors specific to your situation.

Patients waiting for a lung transplant at Barnes-Jewish Hospital are encouraged to attend regular pulmonary rehabilitation sessions  - daily, if possible. Studies have shown that these sessions are an important part of keeping patients in the best physical condition possible, making them more likely to survive surgery and to recover more quickly.

Patients living in St. Louis can come to pulmonary rehab sessions at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Patients living outside of the area may be able to set up sessions at a rehab center near their home. 

How long will I wait for my transplant?
The waiting time can vary from person to person. Every person on the UNOS lung transplant waiting list is assigned a lung allocation score (LAS). This score is an important factor in determining your priority for receiving a lung transplant. The system places patients in order by taking into account the lung allocation score, blood type and geographic distance between the transplant candidate and the hospital where the donor lung is located. More information on the lung allocation score can be found on the UNOS web site.

How long will I be in the hospital following my transplant?
This can vary from person to person. However, most people are in the hospital from 10 to 14 days. Generally, this includes one to two days in the cardiothoracic surgery intensive care unit and seven to 10 days on the general thoracic surgery division.

Will I need to take medications for the rest of my life?
In order to prevent your body from rejecting your new lungs, you will need to take immunosuppressive medications daily for the rest of your life. These medications play a crucial role in keeping your new lungs working properly.

What is rejection?
Rejection occurs when your body's immune system recognizes your new lungs as foreign and attacks them. Your transplant team will discuss the signs and symptoms of rejection with you. In addition, you will have frequent testing and regular doctors appointments to monitor you for rejection.

How often will I be required to return to Barnes-Jewish Hospital?
You will need to remain in the local area for three months following your transplant. After that initial three-month period, we ask that you return at six months and again at one year following your transplant. Subsequently, , we ask that you return for a check up annually.

Will my old lung disease come back in my new lung?
Most diseases do not return in the transplanted lung. However, there are a few diseases that have been known to recur. A member of the transplant team can provide you with more specific information if you wish.

What types of costs are associated with lung transplants?
There are many costs associated with lung transplant. These include travel to and from St. Louis, lodging and insurance deductibles and co-payments. Additional expenses may include medications, home care services and other outpatient therapies such as pulmonary rehabilitation.

Will my insurance cover the costs associated with the transplant?
This is difficult to say as benefits and coverage limits can vary a great deal. However, most insurance plans cover some portion of the costs. It is important that you contact your insurance company to get specific information on coverage and limitations. Our financial specialist and social worker can provide some assistance in getting you the information you need.

For more information on the lung transplant program at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, call .

1000th Lung Transplant

Washington University lung transplant surgeons reached a milestone and quickly passed it Jan. 21 when they performed the 1,000th adult lung transplant at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the 1,001st transplant just a few hours later

 
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