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Lung Transplantation

How Long Do Organ Donation Recipients Spend Waiting?

12/01/2009

Question:

When on the transplant list, how long is the average time spent until receiving an organ?

Answer:

Waiting times for solid organ transplantation differ depending on the type of organ transplant required. Most organ allocations are based on some system where the necessity of the transplant (i.e. how severely impaired is the patient) is balanced against the availability of usable donor organs.  Thus the waiting time for any given patient can vary widely. 

An example of this would be a stable renal failure patient receiving dialysis who is awaiting a non-related kidney transplant.  In this situation waiting times can approach five years.  Contrast that with a patient who presents with sudden catastrophic liver failure who may receive a high allocation score (an assigned score individualized for each organ) and receive a transplant within 72 hours.  

In the case of lung transplantation, prior to the institution of a prioritization system (in 2005), waiting times could exceed two years at some of the larger transplant centers.  Since the initiation of this system some patient groups, such as those with pulmonary fibrosis) have been able to receive transplants more quickly, while there has been little change in the waiting times for other patient groups such as those with pulmonary hypertension.

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Response by:

David  R Nunley, MD, FCCP David R Nunley, MD, FCCP
Former Associate Professor
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University