You may be considering lung transplant surgery if end-stage lung disease has severely damaged your lungs. While the lung transplant process is a difficult, life-changing experience, you can feel confident in our experience. Duke's lung transplant program is the second-largest in the country based on the number of transplants performed.
The entire Duke lung transplant team -- including pre- and post-transplant coordinators, doctors and surgeons, nutritionists, rehabilitation specialists, psychologists, social workers, and counselors -- is here to support you through every step of your journey. If you are a candidate for lung transplant surgery, we help you get your life back, unencumbered by lung disease.
Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.
Lung Transplant Recovery
Staying Local After Transplant
We ask that you stay in the Durham area for three to six months following your lung transplant, depending on your clinical status, so we can closely monitor your progress and ensure a successful outcome. You will return to physical therapy after the transplant to recover from the surgery, build back your strength, and help you become independent again. Although organ rejection may occur following transplants, our personalized approach to anti-rejection therapy makes rejection uncommon. Read more in our After Your Lung Transplant guide.
A lung transplant coordinator will facilitate your ongoing care needs. For urgent needs, a coordinator is on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A lung transplant doctor is also on call at all times if your local doctor needs to reach us. We offer a formal caregiver support group, coping skills training program, and nonpharmacologic pain management strategy class at our rehab center. Many patients and caregivers find the community of others who are preparing for or recovering from their lung transplants at Duke to be invaluable through this challenging process.
Selecting a Lung Transplant Program
These questions and our answers can help you evaluate whether our lung transplant center meets your needs.
How Many Lung Transplants Has Your Center Performed? Duke surgeons performed 127 lung transplants in 2019, which makes us the second-largest program in the country. We’ve performed more than 2000 lung transplants since our program started in 1992.
What Types of Patients Receive Lung Transplants at Your Center?
We routinely perform lung transplantation in patients with end-stage lung disease related to:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Pulmonary fibrosis
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency
- Occupational lung disease
- Lung disease due to prior cancer treatments, such as bone marrow transplant, radiation, and chemotherapy
As one of the first U.S. centers to perform lung transplants in people ages 65 and older, we have extensive experience with this population and the challenges involved. In fact, our program has no fixed upper age limit. We also have experience with people who have complex illnesses, including multi-drug resistant infections, immunologic deficiencies, coronary artery disease, and valvular heart disease.
We are also experienced in performing lung retransplants in people who develop chronic rejection after lung transplant.
What Kinds of Lung Transplants Do You Perform?
We perform both single- and double-lung transplants. Whether you receive a single- or double-lung transplant depends on many factors, including your underlying disease, prior chest surgeries, and anticipated difficulty of finding a suitable donor for you. While the majority of patients receive double-lung transplants, our transplant surgeons develop a customized surgical plan for each patient.
Do You Perform Multi-Organ Transplants?
For some patients, a lung transplant alone may not be enough to restore their health. Our transplant surgeons are experienced in multi-organ transplants, including heart-lung, lung-liver, lung-kidney transplants and triple transplants of the heart, lungs, and liver.
What Is the Typical Wait Time for a Lung Transplant?
Median wait time on our lung transplant list is about 15 days, compared to 88 days nationwide. Our shorter lung transplant wait times are due, in part, to our aggressive and innovative organ-recovery efforts. This approach enables us to procure and successfully transplant more viable organs in more patients who need them. It also reduces the chance of death while waiting for lung transplant surgery.
What Steps Do You Take to Ensure the Best Possible Outcomes?
Lung transplantation is a high-risk procedure, so every effort goes into maximizing your chances of doing well.
- We Make Sure You're Ready for Transplant
We emphasize pulmonary rehabilitation and physical fitness before surgery because evidence shows that better physical functioning going into transplant improves outcomes.
- We Focus on the Role of Mental Health in Lung Transplant Outcomes
Our transplant psychologists work closely with you to make sure you are prepared for the emotional and psychological stress of lung transplantation.
- We Employ Organ Rejection Prevention and Treatment Strategies
Our efforts positively impact our lung transplant survival rates and increase your life expectancy after lung transplant.
Lung Transplant Research
Dedicated to Improving Outcomes
We are dedicated to improving the outcomes of lung transplant recipients and know that research drives progress. Our researchers have made significant contributions to the field of lung transplantation, notably our understanding of risk factors for chronic rejection, the impact of cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection and gastroesophageal reflux on lung transplant outcomes, and the different forms of chronic lung allograft dysfunction (when a transplanted lung doesn't work well).
Understanding of Infection, Rejection
As recipients of a five-year, $13M Clinical Trials in Organ Transplantation (CTOT) grant, we collaborate with four other leading lung transplant centers to advance the understanding of infection and chronic rejection, which affect more than half of lung transplant recipients.
Expanding Donor Options
We have also been a leader in expanding the donor pool through the use of ex-vivo lung perfusion, a method of keeping donor lungs in good condition for transplantation.
Where you receive your care matters. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our pulmonology and lung surgery program is nationally ranked, and the highest ranked program in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2020–2021.