Damage to the lungs can lead to a condition known as a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and the surgical option for those with advanced COPD is a lung transplant. According to research, COPD is the third most common cause of mortality globally where the probability of getting COPD can be decreased by taking preventative measures, such as giving up smoking and avoiding lung irritants, but the condition cannot be reversed once it has begun.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Chandrashekhar Kulkarni, CVTS surgeon and Heart and Lung Transplant Surgeon at Global Hospital in Mumbai, revealed, “Even though there is presently no cure, there are therapies. For those with more severe COPD, there are several treatment options available like changing one’s way of life, utilising a bronchodilator, a kind of drug that aids in relaxing the muscles around the airways, getting oxygen treatment in addition, being treated for lung disease, undergoing surgery, lung transplants are frequently the only option left for those with severe COPD.
Patients eligible for lung transplants for COPD:
According to Dr Chandrashekhar Kulkarni, the following conditions must be met before a person can get a lung transplant:
- The biological age of 60 or younger for a bilateral lung transplant (both lungs), and 65 or younger for a single-lung transplant, with a survival time of just 18 to 24 months, and no other major health issues
- History of consistent medication use
- Emotional balance and knowledge of what life can be like following a lung transplant
- Strong social support system
Can lung transplants cure COPD?
Dr Chandrashekhar Kulkarni revealed, “There is currently no treatment for COPD. However, there are medicines that can make breathing easier, allow a person to be more active, and even reduce the disease’s course. Research specifically indicates that lung transplantation frequently enhances the quality of life for those with severe COPD. Although a lung transplant won’t provide you with a permanent cure for COPD, it can help you manage your symptoms and extend your life. More than half of COPD patients who have a lung transplant live for at least five years, according to some data, which suggests that the operation can be an effective way to improve survival. Remember that COPD is a lifelong illness that necessitates a healthy lifestyle, consistent medication usage, and careful medical supervision. Despite the fact that there is no treatment for COPD, many patients who might otherwise never be able to take a deep, revitalising breath again may find life to be easier after receiving a lung transplant.”
Deciding to opt for a lung transplant
As per Dr Chandrashekhar Kulkarni’s observations, people who have COPD or emphysema tend to have relatively restricted physical capabilities, which greatly lowers their quality of life. He said, “When conventional treatments for COPD or emphysema are ineffective, a lung transplant may be suggested. Consult your Pulmonologist to understand the advantages and possible hazards of lung transplant surgery.”
Benefits of lung transplant for COPD patients
Dr Chandrashekhar Kulkarni highlighted, “Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are two examples of respiratory disorders collectively referred to as COPD that limit the lungs’ capacity to evacuate the air. Breathing becomes challenging, and symptoms like congestion and coughing turn into ongoing issues. Bronchodilators and other drugs can frequently help reduce symptoms and improve breathing in the early stages of COPD. When COPD reaches stage 4, breathing can get so bad that the only option to treat it may be through a lung transplant or lung volume reduction surgery. Without surgery, a person with COPD runs the risk of contracting lung cancer, heart disease and other illnesses.”