A heart-and-lung transplant extends the life of a patient who would otherwise die. The operation is done only when there is a very good chance of success. While long-term outcomes are unknown at this time, the 5 year survival rate is about 40 - 50%.
As with all major organ transplants, the problems are finding a donor, preventing rejection, and the cost of the surgery and medications.
Finding a donor for heart-lung transplant can be difficult. The donated organs must come from a person who has been declared brain-dead, but is still on life-support. The patient who needs the transplant must be healthy enough to survive the surgery.
Preventing rejection is an ongoing process. The body's immune system considers the transplanted organs as invaders, and fights them.
To prevent rejection, organ transplant patients must take anti-rejection drugs such as cyclosporine and corticosteroids that reduce the body's immune response. These drugs also reduce the body's natural ability to fight off various infections.