Lung Donation

A lung transplant is a surgical procedure to replace a diseased or failing lung with a healthy deceased donor lung. Depending on the medical condition, a lung transplant may involve replacing one or both lungs. 


More than 1,000 adults and children in the US are waiting for new lungs.

Someone on the waiting list may wait months or years to receive a donor lung.

Transplant candidates are matched based on key factors including medical urgency, distance, and pediatric status.


Recipients are usually discharged from the hospital 1-3 days following surgery.


Recipients can return to work and normal activity 3-6 months following surgery.

When is a lung donation needed?

Unhealthy or damaged lungs can make it difficult for the body to get the oxygen it needs to survive. Lung damage can often be treated with medication or with special breathing devices. If these measures no longer help or if the patient’s lung function becomes life-threatening, a lung transplant may be needed. A variety of diseases and conditions can damage lungs and hinder their ability to function effectively, such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) including emphysema, scarring of the lungs known as pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, sarcoidosis with advanced fibrosis, and pulmonary hypertension.

How does the lung transplant waiting list work?

Most transplant candidates wait for some length of time because there are more people in need of a transplant than there are deceased donors. Transplant candidates are placed on the national transplant waiting list. When a deceased donor lung becomes available, transplant candidates are matched based on three factors: medical urgency, distance from the donor hospital and pediatric status. Blood type, body size and other medical information are key factors in the matching process for all organs. United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) manages the national transplant waiting list, matching donors to recipients 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Transplant recipients may take a number of medications after transplant, many for the rest of their lives. The medications help reduce the risk of complications after transplant. Patients must be ready at a moment’s notice to receive their new lung or lungs. Transplant must occur within a few hours after the deceased donor lung is recovered. Following surgery, many patients are discharged from the hospital after 1 to 3 weeks, and can return to work and other normal activity within 3 to 6 months.

How can my donor lungs help?

Lung transplants are lifesaving and lifegiving. Donors give years of life to lung recipients and time with loved ones to their families and communities.