Lung Transplants—Are They An Option?
Patients with cystic fibrosis that have the lungs involved are the most vulnerable to infections and risk of death. The lungs are essential to life and when their capacity to breath is severely affected quality of life can be affected. Treatments for patients with cystic fibrosis in their lungs and air passages should have daily physiotherapy and postural chest therapy. Tapping on the back and chest manually is one form of treatment. It is performed using a cupped hand and is called chest percussion. Other methods are using a specially made vest that vibrates to loosen the mucus so it can be coughed up. Other breathing devices have been invented to exert pressure on the chest and lungs to loosen the mucus. These are called oscillatory positive expiratory pressure devices. By breathing out into one of these devices, vibrations are created that loosen and help remove the thick secretion build up.
Normally patients with cystic fibrosis affecting the lungs and air passageways should have thirty-minute treatments twice a day. As an adult, you may be able to perform the physiotherapy on yourself. A child will need the help of a parent, adult, guardian, or older sibling. This therapy is necessary but many times a teen will rebel and refuse to take part in treating their disease. If that should occur, you should contact your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or counselor. It is necessary for treatments to continue especially the chest physiotherapy and nutritional supplements.
In severe cases of cystic fibrosis with lung involvement a patient may need oxygen on a continuous basis. In the past a patient may have been restricted to his or her home because of the bulkiness of the oxygen tank. Today there are many more improved methods of receiving oxygen. A liquid oxygen machine run by electricity gives a constant supply of oxygen through a tube that has the capacity to run throughout the house. Oxygen concentrators are available that are small enough to be carried around and provide oxygen while the patient runs errands and attends social events. This allows the cystic fibrosis patient to have a better quality of life and aid in their breathing.
A lung transplant may be an option a cystic fibrosis patient may consider. Although a lung transplant will not cure the disease, it will allow them to have better breathing capacity. It will not stop the mucus from forming in the transplanted lungs. Only the most severe cases of cystic fibrosis will be considered for a lung transplant. They will be put on a waiting list and need to be considered as good candidates for a lung transplant. As with any major surgery, there are risks and complications involved. Patients that have cancer, AIDS, severe damage to other organs, overweight, or if they are diagnosed with a major psychiatric illness are not good candidates for lung transplants. This method of treatment should be considered a last resort and again, it will not cure cystic fibrosis.