Risks from the donated lung

Find out what factors can affect the health of a donated lung

Key points

  • All donated lungs carry some risk, though in general this is much lower than the risks posed by your lung disease
  • Some lungs are likely to work for longer than others
  • It is possible for diseases to be passed to you through the donated lung
  • Many donor-related factors can affect how well the transplant works

All donated lungs carry some risk


Generally, the risks from a donated lung are much lower than the risk posed by your lung disease. But the risks vary from donor to donor as some are healthier than others. Some lungs are likely to work for longer than others. This might be because of health problems that the donor had, or problems that arise during or after surgery. 

This means that you and your transplant team may need to make a difficult decision about whether or not a particular lung is right for you.

Factors that can affect the health of a donated lung

There are many donor-related factors that could affect how well the transplant works. In general, the age of the donor, is the most important factor linked to how well a transplanted lung might function.

Lungs from older donors up to the age of 75 years old appear to function well. There may be an increased risk of transmitting a cancer from an older donor as most cancers are more common in older people. The overall risk of this happening is very small (less than 1 in 1,000, on average).

Although donor age is important, other donor factors are also important. Focusing on donor age alone can be misleading. Given that most lung transplants from older donors do well, it is still better in most cases to have a transplant from an older donor than to stay on the transplant waiting list.

How can the donor’s medical history affect your lung transplant?

There are many donor health issues that could affect how well a transplant works:

What happens if your donor is found to have health issues?

Your lung transplant team will tell you if there are significant concerns about the donor’s previous health or lifestyle that may lead to risks for you. You will be told how this might affect your health and how well a transplanted lung from this donor might work.

What do you need to know about your donor?

 More information

You may also be interested in