What is the viability of using lung transplantation to battle ARDS?

The ARDS Support Center received inquiry concerning whether lung transplantation might be considered in battling severe ARDS. This inquiry has come up from time to time. We forwarded the inquiry to some of our medical advisors for their comments and advice.

From: Mark D. Siegel, M.D.

spacerUnfortunately, lung transplantation has not been considered a viable option for patients with ARDS because the patients are critically ill at the time. In general, lung transplants are given to patients who are otherwise clinically stable. I get this question from time to time and I understand the frustration of the patient's family.

From: Roy Brower, M.D.

spacerThe idea of transplanting lungs for ARDS has been considered but is not currently a reasonable option. There are a few reasons for this. The first is that many, perhaps most patients with ARDS who do poorly have infections in the bloodstream, lungs, other organs, etc. When a patient receives a lung transplant, it's necessary to give medications that suppress the immune system, to prevent the body from rejecting the transplanted lungs. An important side effect of these medications is that the patient is then at risk for more and worse infections. If there is a severe infection at the time of the transplant and the immune suppression medications are given, the infection goes out of control and leads quickly to death. Another reason that transplants are not a good option for ARDS is that the operation is very difficult, and most ARDS patients are not in good enough shape to undergo the procedure.

spacerI hope this is helpful, perhaps to reassure the writer that a good option was not overlooked in the care of her son.


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