Prof. Daniel Chambers from the Queensland Lung Transplant Service, in The Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane, Australia, debunks a few myths about lung transplantations with some pulmonary fibrosis patients and other patients with lung complications:
Myth 1. “Lung Transplantations are experimental treatments.”
Lung transplantation was revolutionary when it was first performed in Canada, in 1983. Nowadays, it’s a well-established treatment for patients suffering from advanced lung diseases. Over 40,000 transplants have been successfully performed around the world.
Myth 2. “You’re just too old to have a transplant now.”
Although lung transplantation is considered a high-risk procedure, especially at an older age, most programs worldwide accept patients up to 65 years of age. However, by the age of 70 the actual risk of transplantation increases so much it becomes prohibitive, although this often debated and changed, depending on how healthy the patient is, even at this older age. It is expected that in the near future this will cease to be a problem lung transplants will be a viable option for anyone who is considered a good candidate healthwise.
Myth 3.” Lung transplantations last a short time.”
Nowadays, prolonged survival following transplantation is the standard. Most patients who undergo these procedures now return to a regular life, be it at work, playing sports, traveling about, spending time with their family, you name it.
Myth 4. “The heart is more important than lungs.”
Yes it’s true you can’t survive without a heart, but you also cannot survive without your lungs functioning!
Nevertheless, its still “easier” to live without much heart function (with mechanical support) while awaiting transplantation, than living with faulty lung functioning. Lungs have a more complex system which needs to accurately match blood flow with the gas flow at the same time, while simultaneously needing to be protected from the “outside world”. In contrast the heart is a relatively simple “pump” and can be more easily replicated by a mechanical support. Scientists say that artificial, biocompatible hearts may be a reality in the near future, and that artificial lungs are “probably 30 years away” due to their complexity.
Myth 5. “Two lungs are a lot better than one.”
It’s a reality that a double lung transplant is better, but a single lung transplant serves in itself as an excellent treatment option in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), because of the scarring nature of the disease it can be challenging finding a suitable double lung donor.
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