Are You Ever Too Old for Lung Transplant Surgery?

People ages 70 and older who undergo lung transplant surgery have high rates of mortality one year after the procedure, a study finds. But in those under age 70 with end-stage lung disease, the benefits of the procedure may outweigh the risks, the researchers conclude.

The study examined data from 8,363 adults who underwent lung transplantation. While patients of all ages had similar 30-day and 90-day death rates, patients 70 and older had a one-year mortality rate of 42 percent, compared with 18 percent for those under 70.

Although lung transplantation is the gold-standard treatment for many end-stage lung diseases, transplant centers vary greatly in their age restrictions. The International Society for Heart & Lung Transplantation has recommended against lung transplantation in those over age 65.

However, for patients in their 60s, age should be only one of the factors taken into account in deciding whether a lung transplant is recommended. For those under 70, the procedure may in some cases be the best option, particularly when weighed against the dismal survival rates for elderly patients with advanced lung disease who do not receive a lung transplant. But given the substantial risk seen in patients 70 and older, lung transplants are generally not recommended.

Source: Journal of the American College of Surgeons Volume 208, page 400; March 2009

Publication Review By: Peter B. Terry, M.D., M.A.

Published: 12 Aug 2013

Last Modified: 12 Aug 2013