Skip to Content

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:

  • You will work with a transplant team. This includes a social worker or psychologist, dietitian, heart specialist, and lung specialist. You must agree to follow the instructions given to you by these specialists. You must also agree to take antirejection medicines for the rest of your life after the transplant.
  • Do not smoke before, during, or after your transplant. Do not start again after the transplant.
  • You may need a chest x-ray, EKG, CT, or pulmonary function tests. Ask your healthcare provider for information about these and other tests you may need.
  • Arrange to have someone drive you home after surgery.
  • Tell your surgeon about all medicines you currently take. He or she will tell you if you need to stop any medicine for surgery, and when to stop. He or she will tell you which medicines to take or not take on the day of surgery.
  • You may need a blood transfusion if you lose a large amount of blood during surgery. You may be able to donate your own blood before surgery. This is called autologous blood donation. This must be done no later than 3 days before surgery. You may also ask a family member or friend with the same blood type to donate blood for you. This is called directed blood donation.

The night before your surgery:

You may be told not to eat or drink anything after midnight.

The day of your surgery:

  • Take only the medicines your surgeon told you to take.
  • An IV will be placed in a vein. You may be given medicine or liquids through the IV.
  • An anesthesiologist will talk to you before your surgery. Tell him or her if you or anyone in your family has had a problem with anesthesia.
  • An arterial line is a tube that is placed into an artery, usually in the wrist or groin. It is used to monitor your blood pressure continuously or to take blood. A pulmonary artery catheter is a tube inserted through a vein into your heart and the arteries leading to your lungs. It is used to monitor blood flow through your heart during and after surgery.


What will happen:

  • 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 will be taken to the 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 have a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your surgery.

Seek Care Immediately if

  • You have new or worse shortness of breath.
  • You have chest pain.


  • 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.

Care Agreement

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.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

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.

Learn more about Lung Transplant (Precare)

Associated drugs

Further information

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