In 1963, Dr. James Hardy became the first surgeon in history to perform a human lung transplant. The recipient of the lung, who was a 58-year old cancer-ridden inmate serving a life sentence, died 18 days after the procedure from serious complications, according to Dr. Ramsey Hachem of the Washington University of Medicine Barnes-Jewish Hospital. However, the postmortem examination conducted on the transplant patient did not point to organ rejection.
A lung transplant involves the surgical removal and replacement of a patient's severely damaged lung with a healthy organ from a matching lung donor. Depending on the diagnosis, one or both lungs may be removed and replaced, notes the University of Michigan Health System.
A lung transplant is typically performed after all other treatment options are exhausted and failure to proceed with the surgery may result in the patient's death. Viable candidates for the procedure are usually those with terminal lung diseases. End-stage pulmonary illnesses that may necessitate a lung transplant include cystic fibrosis, emphysema, bronchiectasis, congenital and interstitial lung diseases, sarcoidosis and lung-related high blood pressure, explains the United States' National Institutes of Health.
The survival rate of lung transplant patients has increased over the years; however, certain health risks remain. These include blood clot formation, multi-organ failure, diabetes, bone thinning, elevated levels of cholesterol, organ rejection and increased likelihood of developing infections and malignant tumors.