Possible Lung Transplant Complications

Listed below are some of the most common complications seen after lung transplant.

Rejection

Rejection is the most common complication following transplant surgery. It happens when the immune system, which defends the body against foreign agents such as viruses or bacteria, treats a transplanted organ as foreign and tries to attack it. To prevent your body from rejecting your new lung, you will take medications called immunosuppressants which lower your immunity or defense against foreign agents. These medications, when taken on time and as prescribed, reduce the risk of severe rejection which can damage the lung. You will take these medications for the rest of your life.

Infection

As a lung transplant recipient, you will be more susceptible to infection because you will take immunosuppressant medications to help prevent rejection. The risk of infection from bacteria, viruses, and fungi are greatest in the early period after transplant when dosages of medicines are at their highest.

Bronchiolitis Obliterans Syndrome (BOS)

The most common late complication of lung transplant is the development of bronchiolitis obliterans or obliterative bronchiolitis (OB). OB is an inflammatory disorder of the small airways, leading to obstruction and destruction of pulmonary bronchioles. The term bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome (BOS) refers to chronic lung rejection. BOS affects up to 50 percent of lung transplant patients within five years of the transplant and is perhaps the main impediment to prolonged survival.

Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

Many transplant recipients take blood pressure medications, since prednisone and cyclosporine, two of the medications used to limit rejection, can raise blood pressure.

Post-Transplant Diabetes

Some of the immunosuppressant medications that you take may increase your chance of developing diabetes. Diabetes is an increased level of sugar in your blood. Signs of diabetes include excessive thirst, frequent urination, blurred vision, drowsiness, or confusion.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a very common virus. About 70 percent of adults have been exposed to CMV at some time. It usually causes a flu-like illness with fever, body aches, and decreased appetite for two or three days. After exposure to the CMV virus, antibodies form in your blood to protect you from future exposures to CMV. This is similar to what happens after you have chickenpox. Because of the immunosuppressant medications, you will be at risk for CMV infection after transplant. During the first few months, while the immunosuppressant doses are highest and your immune system is especially weak, the CMV virus can reactivate or “wake up.” We will perform blood tests to check both the transplant recipient and donor for the presence of CMV antibodies.