Most patients undergoing heart transplantation in the United States have one of two problems—either they have a virus that damages the muscles in the heart (cardiomyopathy), or they have a major heart attack that damages the heart and causes scarring of the heart over time.
A cardiothoracic surgeon who is specially trained in heart transplantation will perform the operation. Dr. Robert SD Higgins provides more information on heart transplantation in the video below.
Most patients undergoing lung transplants have conditions that are so severe that other treatments no longer work, and the patient is expected to die from lung disease within 1 to 2 years. Those conditions include:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - a disease that gets worse over time and makes it hard to breathe.
- Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis - a condition that causes lung tissue to become stiff, thick, or scarred.
- Cystic fibrosis - an inherited disease that causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in the lungs. It is the most common reason why children need lung transplants.
- Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency - an inherited condition in which a protein made in the liver is faulty. The protein is supposed to protect body parts, such as the lungs, from the harmful effects of other proteins. The deficiency can lead to emphysema or cirrhosis.
- Pulmonary hypertension - increased pressure in the pulmonary arteries.
Reviewed by: Amy E. Hackmann, MD, and Muhammad Faraz Masood, MD