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How successful is lung transplant surgery?

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Quick Answer

Approximately 80 percent of patients survive at least one year after a lung transplant, and between 55 and 70 percent survive for three years or more, according to WebMD. Approximately 40 percent of patients surviving more than five years continue working at least part-time.

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Full Answer

Although a lung transplant can eliminate breathlessness and allow patients to live an active lifestyle, long-term survival rates are not as high as those of kidney, liver and other organ transplants, as affirmed by WebMD. Patients must take powerful immune-suppressing medications to slow the body's rejection of the donor tissue, leading to possible complications such as kidney damage, diabetes and vulnerability to infection. Patients normally take these medications for the rest of their lives, and common side effects include acne, weight gain, stomach problems and facial hair, according to Mayo Clinic. To avoid infections, patients must avoid crowds, wash hands often, receive immunizations and protect skin from sores and scratches.

During a lung transplant, the patient is put under general anesthesia, and the surgeon inserts a tube into the windpipe to assist with breathing, as described by Mayo Clinic. He then makes an incision in the chest to remove the diseased lung before connecting the blood vessels between the lung and the heart to a donor lung. The process normally takes four to eight hours for a single lung transplant, or six to 12 hours for both lungs.

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