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Transplant Services

Lung Transplant Program

MUSC is the only lung transplant program in South Carolina.  Our program has been certified by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) and the U.S. Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

About Us 

Our physicians care for patients with all types of advanced lung diseases, including emphysema, cystic fibrosis, interstitial lung disease, pulmonary hypertension, and rare lung diseases. After conducting an extensive evaluation, we advise patients and their families on the best treatment options. In many cases, a patient's lung disease may be improved with a change in medication or some other non-surgical therapy.

Lung transplant is always considered as a possible option for patients with advanced lung disease. For patients who are good candidates for transplant, replacing diseased lungs with healthy donor organs can significantly improve lung function and extend their life considerably.

Why MUSC?

With some of the nation’s most experienced specialty physicians, MUSC has a long history in leading educational initiatives in South Carolina. MUSC is often the first in the region, and often among the first in the country, to introduce new procedures and treatments to patients. Our physicians lead and participate in many clinical research programs.

Our lung transplant program provides patients with short wait times, excellent outcomes, a convenient location, state-of-the-art technology and facilities, and patient-centered care. Our experienced multi-disciplinary team provides the quality care customized to the patient’s unique condition and needs. MUSC’s reputation for patient safety and quality is well-known throughout the southeast and beyond.

Is a Lung Transplant Right for You? 

Lung transplantation is a surgical option for select patients with advanced lung disease. It is considered for patients whose lung disease has progressed to the point that medical treatment alone is no longer successful. Candidates for lung transplantation typically include:

  • Patients with advanced cases of:
    - Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), including chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or both
    - Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF)
    - Cystic Fibrosis
  • Patients with other diseases or conditions that severely affect lung function may be a candidate for lung transplantation
  • Patients who are considered to have a high risk of death despite optimal medical therapies
  • Patients who have significant physical limitations due to their lung disease despite optimal medical therapies
  • Other than poor lung function, patients should be in fairly good health

Diseases of organs other than the lung and/or a history of some surgical procedures may prevent a patient from being a candidate. Some examples include:

  • Cancer: Active cancer other than most skin cancers
  • Liver: Cirrhosis or chronic hepatitis
  • Kidney: Chronic kidney disease
  • Osteoporosis: Severe bone thinning with a history of fractures
  • Overweight or underweight: Patients who are significantly overweight or underweight will need to reach an acceptable body weight for transplant
  • Mental Health: Mental illness that cannot be controlled and that may interfere with following a complex medical plan
  • Smoking: Any active nicotine use including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, patches, gum, or chewing tobacco is not allowed. Candidates must have stopped using nicotine products for at least 6 months prior to listing for transplant
  • Substance Abuse: Active abuse of alcohol or other addictive substances is not permitted. Candidates with signs or symptoms of addiction histories will be individually evaluated

UNOS Waiting List and Selection Process 

Who decides if and when I get a lung?

After the transplant evaluation, eligible patients are placed on the The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) transplant waiting list. MUSC Health physicians do not decide who will be the next patient to receive a lung from the list. UNOS has a pre-determined process for allocating organs from deceased donors to eligible transplant candidates.  Learn more about the UNOS process.

How long will I have to wait?

The MUSC Health Transplant Center’s wait times for an available lung are among the shortest in the nation. Generally, a lung from a deceased donor becomes available within one month.

 How to Prepare for Your Lung Transplant

To be sure that you are healthy enough to have a successful transplantation, here is what you should expect to do before your assessment by the MUSC Health Transplant Center and your listing with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) list. Unlike many transplantation programs, you will not have to move to Charleston while you are waiting and you may complete many of the necessary steps near your home.

The lung transplant process

  1. Discuss your options with your primary care physician and pulmonologist.
  2. Have your primary pulmonologist send a referral to the MUSC Lung Transplant Program.
  3. Your records will be reviewed by our transplant pulmonologists, and if appropriate, you will be contacted for an initial clinic visit in our transplant clinic with our physicians.
  4. After an initial clinic visit it will be determined if you are an appropriate candidate to proceed with a full lung transplant evaluation.  If this is the case, our coordinators will work with you to schedule this evaluation.
  5. Once you have completed the full evaluation you will be notified regarding the lung transplant teams' decision regarding your candidacy for lung transplant.
  6. If it is felt that you are an acceptable candidate and that lung transplant is the right option for you, you will be placed on the UNOS waitlist.

***Please be aware that lung transplant is not the right option for everyone, and that not everyone who completes an evaluation will be determined to be a candidate.

Patient and family education

We invite patients and their family to attend our monthly lung transplant support group meetings. These meetings are facilitated by patients and their caregivers and will give you the opportunity to meet other patients who are in varying stages of the lung transplant process. Some of these patients have had a lung transplant. This will give you the opportunity to gain a patient perspective of what it’s like to have gone through the process, and what life is like after a lung transplant. Our support group meets the second Tuesday of each month in the Gazes Center Auditorium on 114 Doughty Street. For more information contact our social worker, Nancy Holbach, at 843-792-5092.

Routine medical examinations at MUSC

To be sure you are healthy enough to have a successful lung transplant and to speed up the process of getting on the UNOS list, patients should complete the following routine health maintenance testing before their evaluation. If you live in the Charleston area, you can do these at MUSC Health or at your local doctor’s office. The MUSC Health Transplant Coordinator can help you schedule these appointments. If you live outside the area, you do not have to move to Charleston to complete your pre-transplant medical tests. If you prefer to get your tests done in Charleston, MUSC Health Guest Services will help you and your family with hotel and other arrangements before, during and after your surgery.

  • Mammogram, PAP and gynecological exam for females
  • PSA for men over age 50
  • Colonoscopy for all patients over age 50
  • Dietary assessment
  • Dental Exam
  • Tuberculosis/Purified Protein Derivative (PPD) test
  • Social worker assessment

The results of these tests ensure that you do not have an issue, such as a hidden infection, cancer, or other complicating factor that would expose you to unacceptable risk – or even lead to denial of transplantation by UNOS or the insurance company.

What to Expect at MUSC Health 

The MUSC Health patient-centered approach is designed to work with you before, during and after a lung transplantation.  A comprehensive team of transplant certified specialists will help guide you through the process and provide the kind of care you expect from one of the nations' leading teaching hospitals.

Post-surgery discharge

When discharged from the hospital, you will move to a nearby hotel. You don’t need the intensive care of a hospital, but we do want you close for several days, so we are certain you are recovering well enough to go home.

The MUSC Health Transplant Team social worker will work with you and your family to prepare for care at home. We will provide a booklet on how to manage your post-transplant care and make an appointment with a local post-transplant clinic to monitor your progress, and rest assured your team is always available to answer questions.

Care after your transplant surgery

The biggest concern post-surgery is organ rejection. That’s when your body recognizes the new lung as a foreign object and tries to get rid of it. You will be taking immunosuppressive – or anti-rejection – drugs. These are absolutely necessary, but sometimes they have side effects. You may also be taking medicines to prevent infection, anti-hypertensives (for high blood pressure), vitamins, diuretics (water pills), antacids, etc. Some of these medicines may only need to be taken for a short time, while others may be continued for other medical conditions you have. If another doctor prescribes medication for you, it is wise to let the transplant team know to make sure that they do not interfere with your immunosuppressive medicines.

Remember, transplantation is a treatment, not a cure. So you have to take good care of yourself. Your post-transplant team will work with you to be sure you are doing everything you can to have a successful recovery. The MUSC Health Transplant Program has an excellent success record.

If you live out of state, the MUSC Health Transplant Team will coordinate with your primary care physician and pulmonologist.

Our Team 

Our multi-disciplinary team brings together medical leaders from across MUSC Health to provide the best care for each patient.

Additional Care Team Members

Amy Osguthorpe, NP
Jason Ferro, RN | Transplant Coordinator
Sarah Simon | Transplant Data Coordinator

 

Lung Transplant Videos