When you can’t breathe well, you want a medical team that stops at nothing to find a solution. The Penn Medicine Lung Transplant Program is one of the nation's most forward-thinking and successful programs for people with end-stage lung disease. We push the boundaries on lung transplantation to make more people eligible for this life-saving treatment.
Lung Transplant Eligibility: Why Choose Penn Medicine?
We have the skill and experience to offer lung transplantation to a broader range of patients than most programs. When you choose us as your lung transplant team, you’ll find:
- World-class expertise: Our fellowship-trained physicians are internationally known for their successful outcomes. Many of them have unique experience with less common lung diseases like with cystic fibrosis and scleroderma as well as with patients who have smaller chest sizes. Meet our lung transplant treatment teams.
- Consideration for high-risk transplants: Our program does a high volume of lung transplants, more than most centers. This translates to experience and skill that allow us to expand our pool of eligible patients, including those other centers consider too complex or high-risk.
- Dual-organ transplants: Our relationship with the Penn Transplant Institute lets us offer complex heart-lung and liver-lung transplants for patients who need them.
- Cutting-edge care: We pioneered the use of ex vivo lung perfusion, a process that increases the number of usable donor lungs. We are also leaders in extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) therapy that supports patients’ breathing while they wait for donor lungs.
- Extensive research and clinical trials: As faculty at a prominent academic medical center, our surgeons are also researchers. Their work gives our patients early access to clinical trials for lung transplants and still-in-development therapies that treat lung disease.
Conditions That May Lead to a Lung Transplant
When you come in for lung transplant evaluation, we meet with you to determine if a lung transplant could be right for you. Illnesses that may lead to a lung transplant include:
Increasing Your Eligibility for a Lung Transplant
At Penn, our goal is to say “yes” to as many patients as possible who need a lung transplant. We do our best to work with you to help increase your likelihood of getting a new lung.
Many factors affect your lung transplant eligibility. Some may be out of your control. However, there are some things you can do to enhance your eligibility, including:
- Avoiding alcohol and drugs
- Documenting that you have not used any nicotine product for at least six months, including vaping
- Maintaining a BMI (body mass index) of 35 or less
- Securing a strong social network to support you before, during and after lung transplantation
Patient and Caregiver Commitment to Lung Transplantation
Having a lung transplant is a lifelong undertaking. The Penn lung transplant team is here to assist you at every step. Successful lung transplantation requires a strong partnership between you, your caregivers and the transplant team. In our comprehensive evaluation process, we work with you to determine if a lung transplant is your best option.
We want to ensure you join our program under conditions that foster the best possible outcome. An important part of lung transplant eligibility is your and your caregivers’ commitment to the transplant process. Before placing you on the lung waiting list, we will ask you to sign a promise to:
Establish a Caregiver Support Network
Choose a team of family and friends to help care for you during this process, including individuals who can discuss your care with our transplant team and take you to appointments.
Maintain Close Communication with Your Health Care Providers
The lung transplant team is here to support your commitment. We need to know you are ready when a lung becomes available. We expect you to:
- Keep us informed about your health and life circumstances, including any time you are in the hospital or have medication changes.
- Establish and maintain a relationship with a primary care provider and a primary pulmonologist in your community.
- Keep a mobile telephone with you at all times so we can reach you when a lung becomes available. Notify us in advance if you are ever unavailable or unable to come to the hospital for transplant.
Be an Active Member of Your Health Care Team
A successful lung transplant relies on teamwork, and you are the most important member of the team. We encourage you to:
- Ask us any and all questions.
- Attend all scheduled office visits, rehabilitation sessions and appointments for laboratory and diagnostic testing. If you need to reschedule, please give us as much notice as possible.
- Learn as much as you can about your lung health, the transplant process and what you will need to do to care for yourself going forward. We provide many patient education materials and are always available to answer questions from you or your loved ones.
- Learn as much as possible about your medications and take them as prescribed. Our team is always available to assist if you have difficulty obtaining, paying for, or taking prescribed medications or therapies.
- Understand that evidence of illegal or unhealthy behavior can cause you to be removed from lung transplantation consideration.
Prepare for Costs and Lodging Related to Your Transplant
A lung transplant is a financial commitment. Our transplant social workers are experts in the logistical aspects of the lung transplant process. They can help you with requirements including:
- Understanding what costs your insurance will and will not cover. You most likely will need money set aside to pay for out-of-pocket expenses. Alert us if you experience financial difficulties.
- Finding housing within two hours of the transplant center while on the waiting list and having transportation plans arranged in advance.
- Finding housing in the Philadelphia region for three months after you are discharged from the hospital so you can return for close monitoring and follow-up care several times per week. One option is our Clyde F. Barker Penn Transplant House, a guest house for transplant patients and their families and caregivers. Other options are also available.
Commit to Lifelong Success
A lung transplant can allow you to regain a better quality of life, but it requires ongoing work on your part. For the best possible outcome, we encourage you to:
- Not use illicit drugs or substances.
- Exercise at least three times a week.
- Limit alcohol intake to our recommendation.
- Manage your weight and follow recommended nutrition restrictions and guidelines.
- Remain smoke- and nicotine-free for the rest of your life.
- Undergo blood or urine tests to screen for drugs, nicotine and alcohol and show documentation of attendance at substance abuse counseling or support meetings if we ask.
A Life-Changing Experience for a Husband-and-Wife Team
When David's pulmonary fibrosis worsened, his wife Susan did extensive research to find an experienced lung transplant program that could follow and support them every step of the way. She found it at Penn, and now she and David are enjoying their life together. Watch David's story.
Request an Appointment About Your Lung Transplant Eligibility and Criteria
Call 215-662-6200 to speak one of our lung transplant eligibility experts about the criteria candidates need to meet for a transplant. You can also request an appointment using our online form.