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Lung Transplant


A lung transplant is surgery to replace your lung with a donor lung. Lung transplant surgery may be performed on one or both lungs. If you have severe heart disease, you may have heart and lung transplant surgery at the same time. Ask for more information about a heart and lung transplant.



  • Antimicrobials: These prevent infection from bacteria, fungus, or a virus. You may need these medicines for a period of time after surgery.
  • Antirejection medicines: These help keep your immune system from rejecting your new lung. Most people who have a lung transplant take a combination of 3 different antirejection medicines. You will need to take them for the rest of your life.
  • Pain medicine: You may be given medicine to take away or decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine.
  • Bronchodilators: You may need medicine given through an inhaler 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 him or her 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.

Follow up with your transplant team as directed:

You may need tests for weeks or months after your transplant to check for rejection and infection. You will also receive pulmonary function tests at follow-up visits with your transplant team. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Move with care:

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.

Do coughing and breathing exercises:

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 rehab exercises:

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.

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.

Prevent infections:

Avoid contact with anyone who has received a live virus vaccine, such as MMR, varicella, or flu mist, for 6 weeks after your transplant. Get a flu shot every year as soon as it becomes available. Ask your family members to get a flu shot also. This will reduce the risk that they will spread an infection to you.

For more information:

  • National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
    Health Information Center
    P.O. Box 30105
    Bethesda , MD 20824-0105
    Phone: 1- 301 - 592-8573
    Web Address:

Contact your transplant team 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.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain. You cough up blood.
  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.
  • You cough up blood.
  • You are wheezing or have a new cough that is not normal for you.
  • You are short of breath or feel like you cannot get enough air.
  • You have a fever or body aches.

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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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Lung Transplant (Discharge Care)

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