About Lung Disease and Lung Transplantation

Lungs enable our bodies to absorb oxygen from the air we breathe and to eliminate excess carbon dioxide. This process is critical to effective breathing.

Pulmonary (lung) diseases include a number of conditions that interfere with the ability to breathe. Left untreated, lung disease can become so severe that one or both lungs no longer function, making patients very sick.

Patients with end-stage, noncancerous lung disease that cannot be managed with medications or breathing devices may be candidates for lung transplantation.

Although many conditions can cause the lungs to fail – including issues that impact the internal structures that facilitate breathing, such as the muscles, arteries, bones, and nerves – lung transplantation is typically appropriate only for people whose conditions originate in the lungs themselves. These include:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which comprises emphysema and chronic bronchitis
  • Severe lung injuries, including those caused by exposure to smoke and harmful fumes
  • Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Interstitial lung disease
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Sarcoidosis

Depending on its cause and severity, lung disease can result in symptoms that include:

  • Wheezing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chronic cough
  • Chronic mucus production
  • Chronic chest pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fatigue and sleepiness
  • A blue tint of the skin, lips, and fingernails
  • Confusion
  • Irregular heartbeat