An FAQ About Lung Transplants

by Erica Sanderson Editor

Who gets a lung transplant?

A person living with life-threatening lung diseases usually between the ages of 18 and 65 whose current life expectancy is between 12 to 24 months. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) manages the organ donation system and the waiting list. About half of those on the list receive a transplant.

How common are they?

Not many lungs are available for donation, so transplants are not very common. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, about 1,800 U.S. lung transplants occurred in 2010. Double lung transplants are more common than single lung transplants.

How much can a transplant extend life expectancy?

It depends on the person. Some people live many years with their new lung(s). However, some live only a short period afterward. And some bodies reject the new lungs immediately.

How do you get on the transplant list?

Steps are required before getting on the list, such as a psychological and social evaluation, blood tests, diagnostic tests, immunizations, and interviews. A transplant team will then consider the information and results from these steps, along with the patient’s medical history, before accepting them as a transplant candidate.

How long is the wait?

According to Johns Hopkins, the wait for one lung is about two years on average and the wait for a double lung transplant is up to three years.

How does the selection process work?

Blood type, geographic location, and lung allocation score are factors. This score is based on the rate of urgency rather than time spent on the wait list. This is why some people wait longer to receive an organ than others.

What are the risks?

There are major and life-threatening risks with lung transplants including rejection from the body, infection, blood clots, pulmonary edema (fluid), and blood vessel blockage to the new lungs.

Who can donate?

Healthy, nonsmoking adults who are a good match. While majority of the donors are deceased, living people can donate a lobe or lung tissue. To learn more about becoming a donor, visit

Erica Sanderson
Meet Our Writer
Erica Sanderson

Erica Sanderson is a former content producer and editor for HealthCentral. Living with a chronic disorder that affects the lungs and instestine, Erica focused on covering digestive health and respiratory health. Topics included COPD, asthma, acid reflux, managing symptoms and medication.