Lung transplantation in South Africa: Indications, outcomes and disease-specific referral guidelines

G L Calligaro, J Brink, P Williams, A Geldenhuys, M Sussman, T Pennel


Lung transplantation (LT) is a robust therapy for advanced lung disease, which offers recipients extended and good-quality survival. In South Africa (SA), patients have historically had limited access to this therapy, particularly if unfunded. LT has been used as a successful therapeutic intervention for a wide variety of end-stage pulmonary parenchymal and vascular diseases, but the most common diseases that lead to LT are chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, interstitial lung disease, cystic fibrosis, alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency and pulmonary arterial hypertension. Timing of referral for LT can be challenging and is disease specific, influenced by the rate of progression of the disease, the development of associated comorbidities, and access and response to advanced therapies. Advances in recipient and donor selection, surgical technique and postoperative management have improved early survival, but mortality remains higher than for other solid organ transplants. Rejection and infection remain major causes of early posttransplant death, while chronic rejection is the major cause of death after the first year. Survival is heavily influenced by the underlying lung disease. In this review, we summarise the indications and contraindications for LT, remind pulmonologists of the availability of this therapy in SA and offer guidelines for the timely referral of suitable candidates.

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