Health Alert: Lung transplants in the elderly - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Health Alert: Lung transplants in the elderly

NATIONAL - Do you consider 60 "elderly?" The word alone knocks the wind out of most baby boomers, but it has been considered too old for a lung transplant. There's a new study proving the times are changing.

When emphysema patient Deneen Allen needed a lung transplant, she worried her age would be a problem.

"I've heard of some people, some hospitals requiring 60 to be the cut off date," she said.

She's right and it's a frightening thought when your life is on the line.

"I don't know what I would do. It was...I mean, I honestly don't know," Allen continued.

60-somethings can now breathe easier, thanks to a study at the University of Virginia.

Dr. David Jones says, "The average life expectancy now for an American woman is over 80 years of age. And so, it seemed to us, years ago actually, that 60 was somewhat arbitrary."

Researchers studied the outcomes of 182 lung transplant patients. 

Dr. Mark Robbins, "What we generally found was that the patients over 60 had the same survival rate, had the same length of hospitalizations and the same rate of complications. So they weren't at higher risk."

They say '60' today is the new '50' for some, so a patient's 'chronological' age shouldn't be a factor.

Dr. Jones says, "If you're 60 but physiologically you're 50, except for your lungs obviously, then there's no reason why you shouldn't be considered for a lung transplant."

Said Dr. Robbins, "In other words, they can be past 60, but be pretty sturdy and robust."

Thanks to an organ donor and her otherwise healthy status, Deneen received a new lung and is doing well.

"I can do almost anything, Deneen said. "I take aerobics, I take pilates. I lift weights and do all that, do a lot of walking, so it's changed my life totally."

Instead of getting her walking papers, she's walking on air. Right now researchers say 70 is the cutoff, but as baby boomers take aging to a new level, that may also be up for reconsideration down the road.

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Posted by Bryce Mursch

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