What Is It?
A heart-lung transplant is surgery for someone with life-threatening heart and breathing problems. Surgeons remove the damaged heart and lungs and replace them with a healthy heart and lungs from a person who has died. The person receiving the new heart and lungs (the recipient) is someone with a high chance of dying within one to two years without a transplant. The person providing the healthy heart and lungs (the donor) is someone who is brain dead, but still on life-support machinery.
Currently, surgeons perform very few heart-lung transplants each year in the United States. This number is small because there is a shortage of suitable donors and the requirements for heart-lung donation are stricter than those for heart donation alone. Only a small percent of people who are suitable heart donors also fit the criteria for donating both heart and lungs.