It is not uncommon for someone with cystic fibrosis to experience severe lung problems; yet, for a variety of reasons, lung transplants are relatively rare. Approximately 900 lung transplants are performed each year in the United States. This is a relatively small number when you consider the number of people in the United States in need of new lungs. Someone may require new lungs for a a range of reasons, one of which is cystic fibrosis. In fact, of the 900 transplants per year, only 120 to 150 are cystic fibrosis-related. In total, approximately 1,600 Americans with cystic fibrosis have received lung transplants since 1991 [source: CFF].
Unfortunately, due to lack of donor lungs, only a portion of people with cystic fibrosis who need a lung transplant actually receive one. In one year, approximately 500 people with cystic fibrosis are evaluated for lung transplants in the United States. Only around 300 people actually meet the requirements for a transplant, and even fewer people actually receive a transplant [source: CFF]. In the United Kingdom, over 50 percent of people with cystic fibrosis on a lung transplant list never receive the procedure, due to the lack of eligible donor lungs [source: Patient.co.uk]. Transplants from a deceased donor are more common than live donations.
Lung transplantation is considered only when an individual with cystic fibrosis has complete lung failure. This procedure is seen as a last resort. A recipient's overall health must also be evaluated before he or she receives a lung transplant. Therefore, the patient may not qualify for a lung transplant if his or her overall health does not meet certain requirements. Approximately, 50 percent of people who receive lung transplants due to cystic fibrosis complications are alive five years later [source: CFF].