The Pediatric Lung Transplant Program at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital at the University of Florida performed the first pediatric lung transplant in the state of Florida in 1996 and the first pediatric heart/lung transplant in 1999. Since 2003, a total of 98 children were listed for transplant and a total of 21 children received a lung transplant at UF. Our transplant program is approved by the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) and is currently active and evaluating all pediatric patients of all age groups including infants.
The goal of the pediatric lung transplant program is to provide excellent care and complete thoracic transplantation services to the children in the state of Florida. The program is staffed by a multidisciplinary team of professionals, which includes thoracic surgeons, pediatric pulmonologists, pediatric cardiologists, pediatric critical care physicians, transplant nurse practitioners/coordinators, pediatric critical care nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, social workers, and nutritionists.
The transplant team is led by Marc Shecter, MD. Our surgeons are Mark Bleiweis, MD and Mindaugas Rackauskas, MD, PhD. We are also accepting referrals for pediatric patients in need of heart/lung transplantation.
What is Lung Transplant
Lung transplant is a surgical and medical treatment designed to treat patients with advanced and irreversible lung disease. The procedure involves surgically replacing patients’ diseased lung with a much healthier lung from a living or cadaveric donors. Two lungs are usually harvested from cadaveric donors while only one lung or part of one lung is obtained from living donors. The procedure is a technically demanding procedure that requires an experienced surgeon. It is also a medically demanding condition since these patients need continuous medical monitoring and they receive numerous medications to help patients tolerate the transplanted lung and prevent its rejection by the recipient’s immune system without compromising patients’ own ability to fight infections. Lung transplant patients, therefore, require diagnostic procedures that include bronchoscopy, lung biopsies, lung imaging such as chest x-rays and CT scans, as well as blood tests to ensure the vitality and functionality of the transplanted lungs.
Since the first lung transplant in 1963 survival of patients with a lung transplant is gradually improving. Now, most patients survive the first year after transplant and 50% of them live for at least five years post-transplant. Unfortunately, patients with lung transplants continue to suffer from several complications mainly related to the chronic rejection of the transplanted lung and the high susceptibility to serious infections.
In children, lung transplants are done less frequently than in adults. Most lung transplants in children are conducted on patients with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) – a genetic disease that results in early lung destruction due to chronic inflammation and infection. Even though more children with CF are now surviving beyond childhood, a significant number of them continue to have advanced-stage lung disease before they reach old age.
There are over 25,000 CF patients recorded in the Cystic Fibrosis national registry, 1,300 patients are from the state of Florida. Since 1991, more than 2,000 CF patients received a lung transplant, and the number of patients being transplanted every year is on the rise.
Lung transplant is also a treatment option in children with severe pulmonary hypertension and in children with severe chronic lung disease of prematurity and in children with interstitial lung diseases.
Pediatric Lung Transplant in Florida
Florida is the 4th largest state and has excellent medical centers with national reputation among which is the University of Florida. Florida has a significant number of children with Cystic Fibrosis, which is the most common indication for a lung transplant. Lung transplant in children is done only by a few specialized medical centers in the United States (a total of 7 centers nationwide).
The University of Florida and Shands Children Hospital is the only medical center in the State of Florida that provide lung transplant for children.
Please call (352) 265-0665 if you have any questions or if you would like to make a referral to the pediatric heart/lung transplant program.