Lung transplant is surgery to replace one or both diseased lungs with healthy lungs from a human donor. The new lung or lungs are usually donated by someone under age 65 who is brain-dead but is still on life-support. The donor tissue must be matched as closely as possible to your tissue type to reduce the odds that your body will reject the transplanted lung. Lungs can also be given by living donors. Two or more people are needed. Each person donates a segment (lobe) of their lung to form an entire lung for the person who is receiving it.
Before the Transplant
Before the procedure, your doctor will determine whether you are a good candidate by doing the following tests:
- Blood tests or skin tests to check for infections.
- Blood typing.
- Tests to evaluate your heart, such as EKG, echocardiogram, or cardiac catheterization.
- Tests to evaluate your lungs.
- Tests to look for early cancer (Pap smear, mammogram, colonoscopy).
- Tissue typing, to help make sure your body will not reject the donated lung.
If your transplant team believes that you are a good candidate for lung transplantation, you will be put on a national waiting list. Your place on the waiting list is based on a number of factors, including:
- What type of lung problems you have.
- The severity of your lung disease.
- The likelihood that a transplant will be successful.
The amount of time you spend on a waiting list usually does not determine how soon you get a lung, except possibly with children. Waiting time is often at least 2 - 3 years.
While you are waiting for a new lung, follow these guidelines:
- Follow any diet your lung transplant team recommends. Stop drinking alcohol, do not smoke, and keep your weight in the recommended range.
- Take all medicines as they were prescribed. Report changes in your medications and medical. problems that are new or get worse to the transplant team.
- Follow any exercise program that you were taught during pulmonary rehabilitation.
- Keep any appointments that you have made with your regular doctor and transplant team.
- Let the transplant team know how to contact you right away if a lung becomes available. Make sure that, no matter where you go, you can be contacted quickly and easily.
Procedure for Treatment
A lung transplant is usually the last-resort treatment for lung failure. Lung transplants may be recommended for patients under age 65 who have severe lung disease. Some examples of diseases that may require a lung transplant are:
- Cystic fibrosis
- Damage to the arteries of the lung because of a defect in the heart at birth (congenital defect)
- Destruction of the large airways and lung.
- Emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Lung conditions in which the lung tissues become swollen and scarred (interstitial lung disease).
- High blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs (pulmonary hypertension).
During lung transplant surgery, you are asleep and pain-free A surgical cut is made in the chest. Lung transplant surgery is done with the use of a heart-lung machine, which does the work of your heart while your heart is stopped for the surgery.
- For single lung transplants, the cut is made on the side of your chest where the lung will be transplanted. The operation takes 4 - 8 hours. In most cases, the lung with the worst function is removed.
- For double lung transplants, the cut is made below the breast and reaches to both sides of the chest. Surgery takes 6 - 12 hours. Tubes are used to send blood to a heart-lung bypass machine to provide oxygen and move blood through the body during the surgery.
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