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Lung Transplant


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


Before your surgery:

  • Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.
  • An IV is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.
  • General anesthesia will keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. Anesthesia may be given through your IV. You may instead breathe it in through a mask or a tube placed down your throat. The tube may cause you to have a sore throat when you wake up.

During your surgery:

  • General anesthesia will keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. Your surgeon will make 1 or 2 incisions that begin at your armpit and go to or across your chest. He or she will remove your failing lung and place the donor lung into your chest. The donor lung will be stitched to your airway and to the blood vessels in your heart. If you are having a double-lung transplant, your weakest lung will be removed and replaced first. An endotracheal (ET) may be inserted into one lung while the other lung is removed and replaced. The ET tube is hooked to a ventilator to help you breathe.
  • Your surgeon will insert a thin tube called a bronchoscope down your throat and into your airway. A light and camera on the bronchoscope allows him or her to check the incisions and stitches inside your airway. You will have 2 or 3 tubes inserted in each incision to drain extra blood and fluid. Your incisions will be closed with stitches and covered with bandages.

After your surgery:

  • You may be taken to a recovery room then the intensive care unit (ICU). Healthcare providers will watch you closely to make sure you are okay. A healthcare provider may remove the bandages soon after your surgery to check your wound and drains.
  • You will have several tubes in place , which might make it hard to move. All of these tubes are important to help your healthcare providers know about any problems. The drains are taken out when the incision stops draining. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay.
  • You may be on a ventilator for 1 day or longer after surgery. Then, you will need to wear oxygen through a mask or small tubes placed in your nose. Ask your healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.
  • Chest tubes may be needed to remove air that entered your chest during surgery. They also remove any extra blood and fluid. Your chest tubes will be left in place for about 1 or 2 weeks, or until all of the extra fluid and air is gone.
  • Medicines may be given to prevent or relieve pain, nausea, or an infection caused by bacteria. You will be given antirejection medicine. This helps prevent your body from rejecting your new lung. You may also need medicines to help your heart and lungs work properly.
  • Take deep breaths and cough 10 times each hour. This will decrease your risk for a lung infection. Take a deep breath and hold it for as long as you can. Let the air out and then cough strongly. Deep breaths help open your airway. You may be given an incentive spirometer to help you take deep breaths. Put the plastic piece in your mouth and take a slow, deep breath, then let the air out and cough. Repeat these steps 10 times every hour.
  • You will be helped to walk around after surgery. Movement will help prevent blood clots. You may also be given exercises to do in bed. Do not get out of bed on your own until your healthcare provider says you can. Talk to healthcare providers before you get up the first time. They may need to help you stand up safely. When you are able to get up on your own, sit or lie down right away if you feel weak or dizzy. Then press the call light button to let healthcare providers know you need help.


  • You may bleed more than expected and need a blood transfusion. You may develop an infection in your lungs or your incision. Fluid may collect in your lungs or around your heart. .Your donor lung could be damaged before or during surgery. Your heartbeat could be irregular for a while after surgery. Your stitches could break open, and you may need another surgery to fix them.
  • Nerve damage may make it hard for you to cough and clear the fluid from your airway. Nerve damage may also make it hard to swallow. Your new lung may not function properly. You may develop a life-threatening blood clot.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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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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