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How do you know if you need a lung transplant?

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A person's eligibility for a lung transplant depends on factors such as life expectancy without the procedure, WebMD states. Transplants are reserved for patients with severe end-stage lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or debilitating conditions that interfere with quality of life, such as cystic fibrosis. However, doctors may rule out a transplant for patients with conflicting health conditions, psychological drawbacks or lack of family or financial support for rehabilitation, advises the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

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Even when a patient needs a lung transplant, a doctor may not approve the procedure if the patient has a history of serious infections, cancer or heart, kidney or liver disease, according to WebMD. A history of drug, alcohol or tobacco abuse may be a disqualifying factor, and doctors are also reluctant to consider seniors over age 60 for candidacy. Transplant teams use a Lung Allocation Score to determine a candidate’s ranking on the donor list, and one important factor is a patient’s estimated life expectancy after transplant surgery.

Lung transplant candidates are referred to a transplant team that performs several stages of evaluation before ultimately approving the patient for the donor list, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute notes. The team usually includes a coordinator who oversees the entire process along with various specialists, such as a pulmonologist, thoracic surgeon, immunologist and cardiologist. Patients may also work with social workers, financial coordinators and nutritionists to make sure they are mentally, physically and financially prepared to undergo surgery.

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