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Treatment for Sarcoidosis May Include a Lung Transplant

Smiling doctorSarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease that can develop in any organ, but is most commonly diagnosed in the lungs. When it develops in the lungs, small clusters of inflamed cells may accumulate on the air sacs (alveoli), breathing tubes (bronchioles), or nearby lymph nodes. Pulmonary sarcoidosis can cause scar tissue to develop, limiting the amount of air that the lungs can hold and preventing the organs from properly moving oxygen throughout the bloodstream.

Although pulmonary sarcoidosis is often asymptomatic, some patients experience a chronic cough, shortness of breath (dyspnea), night sweats, unexplained weight loss, and persistent fatigue. Physicians don’t know the exact cause, but they do know that sarcoidosis tends to develop gradually and get worse with time. Although the condition sometimes heals itself, most patients require medication and other treatments to help control their symptoms. Most patients with mild to moderate pulmonary sarcoidosis can manage their lung transplant conditions through options such as:

  • Prescription corticosteroids, which help reduce inflammation in the body
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which can help control pain, muscle aches, or fever, if present
  • Prescription inhalers, which can help open the airways during prolonged bouts of wheezing and coughing
  • Immunosuppressive medications, which may help suppress the body’s natural inflammatory responses

Although these treatments can often stabilize or clear a patient’s pulmonary sarcoidosis, some individuals experience severe and permanent pulmonary dysfunction and tissue damage. These patients may eventually require more advanced treatment options, such as a lung transplant operation. Many patients have achieved favorable long-term outcomes by having their damaged lung(s) replaced with a healthy donor organ.

At Tampa General Hospital, we have completed an average of 42 lung transplants per year since 2006, and we perform lung transplants for adult patients with sarcoidosis who meet our selection criteria. We assess every patient on an individual basis to determine if a transplant would be the best possible option for their unique situation; physicians may submit a patient for referral using our lung transplant referral form.