Healthcare: Transplant Procedures

Lung Transplant

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Lung transplant



A lung transplant is surgery to remove your diseased lung and give you a healthy one. The new lung comes from a person who has died.

Your body will be able to work with only one healthy lung. Most people get one new lung, but some people get two.

To do the surgery, the doctor makes a cut in your side about 6 inches below your armpit. This cut is called an incision. Then the doctor removes part of a rib so he or she can take out your lung and put in the new one. Next, he or she connects the blood vessels of the new lung to your body’s blood vessels and connects the main bronchial tube of the new lung to your main bronchial tube. Then the doctor closes the incision with stitches or staples. These are removed about 1 to 3 weeks after surgery. The incision will leave a scar that will fade with time.

After surgery, the new lung will start to work right away. This can help you breathe more easily.

You will probably spend 1 to 3 weeks in the hospital. But it may take 2 to 3 months for your energy to fully return.


What happens before your lung transplant?


Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.

Tell your doctors ALL the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia.

If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if you should stop taking these medicines before your surgery. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.

Your doctor will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your surgery. You may need to stop taking certain medicines a week or more before surgery. So talk to your doctor as soon as you can.

If you have an advance directive, let your doctor know. It may include a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care. Bring a copy to the hospital. If you don’t have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets your doctor and loved ones know your health care wishes. Doctors advise that everyone prepare these papers before any type of surgery or procedure.


What happens on the day of your lung transplant?


Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don’t, your surgery may be canceled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.

Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.

Do not shave the surgical site yourself.Take off all jewelry and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery center

Bring a picture ID.

The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.

You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You will be asleep during the surgery.

The surgery will take about 3 to 6 hours.You will have a tube down your throat for a while. It will help you breathe.You will probably have one or two tubes coming out of your chest. These tubes drain fluid and air. They will be removed before you go home.


What happens when you go home after a lung transplant?


Be sure you have someone to drive you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine make it unsafe for you to drive.

You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your surgery. They will cover things like diet, wound care, follow-up care, driving, and getting back to your normal routine.


Your recovery


Your side and chest will be sore for the first 1 to 2 weeks after surgery. You also may have some numbness around the cut (incision) the doctor made. You may feel tired while you are healing. It can take 2 to 3 months for your energy to fully return. Your doctor may advise you to work with a respiratory therapist to make your new lung stronger.

After the transplant, you must take medicine to keep your body from rejecting the new lung. You will need to take this anti-rejection medicine every day for the rest of your life. These medicines have side effects. One side effect is that your body may be less able to fight infections. It is important that you take steps to avoid infections. Stay away from crowds of people and anyone who might have an infection or an illness such as a cold or the flu.

Having an organ transplant can bring up many emotions. You may feel grateful and happy. But you also may feel guilty or depressed. Seek out family, friends, and counselors for support. If you think you are depressed, ask your doctor for help. Treatment can help you feel better.

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Lung Transplants for Cystic Fibrosis Patients


Lung transplant referral is considered when your FEV1 is

Undergoing a transplant is a major undertaking, and it doesn’t end with surgery. You will be required to take multiple medications and make frequent clinic visits. To ensure you have a successful transplant and that your donor lungs provide you with a longer and better quality of life, we will consider several factors:

  • How compliant you are with prescribed treatments
  • Attendance to scheduled appointments
  • Healthy weight
  • Social support

Lung transplants are performed at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center. At the time of referral, please contact your insurance provider to determine which hospital is the most cost effective for you.


What you should know about lung transplants


Dr. Gabriel Loor, surgical director of the Lung Transplant Program at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center, explains the process, potential benefits and post-treatment outlook related to lung transplantation.