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Lung Transplant

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

A lung transplant is surgery to replace your lung with a donor lung from another person. Lung transplant surgery may be performed on one or both lungs.

The Lungs


Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You are short of breath or feel like you cannot get enough air.
  • You feel lightheaded and have chest pain.
  • You cough up blood.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • You are wheezing or have a new cough that is not normal for you.
  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • Your stitches come apart.
  • You have a fever or body aches.

Call your lung doctor or transplant surgeon if:

  • You have nausea, diarrhea, or constipation, or you are vomiting.
  • You feel more tired than usual.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


You may need any of the following:

  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • Antimicrobials help prevent infection from bacteria, fungus, or a virus.
  • Antirejection medicine helps prevent your body from rejecting your new lung. You may need to take this medicine for the rest of your life.
  • Bronchodilators , such as an inhaler, may be needed to help open the air passages in your lungs. This helps you breathe more easily.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell your provider if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Care for your wound as directed:

Follow your surgeon's instructions about how to care for your wounds at home.


  • Rest as needed and be careful with movement. Do not lift more than 5 pounds for at least 6 weeks. Do not twist or bend at the waist. Do not do any abdominal or arm exercises unless your transplant team or physical therapist tells you to.
  • Take deep breaths and cough 10 times several times a day. This will help decrease your risk for a lung infection after surgery.
    • Hold a pillow tightly against your incision when you cough to help decrease pain. Take a deep breath and hold it for as long as you can. Deep breaths help open your airway. Let the air out and follow with a strong cough. Spit out any mucus you cough up. Repeat the steps 10 times every hour.
    • You may be given an incentive spirometer to help you take deep breaths. Put the plastic piece into your mouth and take a slow, deep breath. Let your breath out and cough. Repeat the steps 10 times every hour.
  • Do not smoke. If you smoked before you needed a transplant, do not start smoking again. You will have to be a nonsmoker for the rest of your life. Avoid secondhand smoke. Do not let anyone smoke around you or in your home.
  • Do rehab exercises as directed. You will work with a physical therapist to improve your lung function and decrease shortness of breath. Other goals are to improve your muscle strength, flexibility, and exercise endurance. You may be directed to take short walks or cycle on a stationary bike.
  • Avoid people who are sick or who have received a live virus vaccine for 6 weeks. Examples include the flu mist, MMR, or varicella.

Follow up with your lung doctor or transplant surgeon as directed:

You may need to return for tests and ongoing care. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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