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After Lung Transplant Surgery​

Lung Transplant Recovery and Aftercare

After a lung transplant, you will gradually start to feel stronger. The end goal is to allow you to live more freely without oxygen.

Making sure your body accepts the new lungs is vital to your success and recovery.

Post-Lung Transplant Recovery Process

The first few months after lung transplant surgery are when you have the highest risk for infection or rejection. That's why you will need to remain within 1 hour of UPMC for at least 2 to 3 months after discharge or as directed by your transplant team.

You must also have a caregiver with you at all times during these first few months.

You and your caregiver can arrange for a room at Family House near the hospital until you're ready to return home. This is not a medical facility.

You'll also need to care for the incision site to prevent infection. Follow the directions your transplant nurse showed you before leaving the hospital.

Lung Transplant Follow-up Appointments

At first, you will have frequent follow-up visits so the lung transplant team can make sure you're healing properly as well as to ensure your ongoing improvement.

After that, you will return to UPMC's post-transplant clinic at least every 2 months for a 2-day visit for the first year. This will vary based upon testing results at any visit.

Preventing lung transplant complications, rejection, and infection

Lung biopsy is the only way for your doctor to determine whether your body is accepting or rejecting the new lung or lungs. That's why it's so important that you come to all your follow-up appointments.

During these visits, you will have:

  • Pulmonary Function Tests (PFT) to make sure your new lung or lungs continue to improve.
  • Blood work
  • Chest X-rays
  • Clinic visits
  • Bronchoscopy with biopsy

You'll continue to take the antirejection drugs you received at the hospital for the rest of your life. Your doctor will continuously monitor how you respond and make adjustments as needed to find the right treatment.

The antirejection drugs make you more susceptible to developing infections.

After lung transplant surgery, limit your exposure to people with illnesses or places where people are likely to be spreading germs.

Call us if you have any signs of infection, which include:

  • Fever over 100.4°
  • Chills
  • Swelling, redness, or fluid draining from the incision site

Your care team at UPMC is here to help you for the rest of your life.

Post-Lung Transplant Aftercare

An organ recipient needs a lot of help after transplant surgery.

Being a caregiver is a big responsibility. You may need more than one person to help you for the first few months after your lung transplant.

A lung transplant caregiver will:

  • Make sure you take medications in the right doses at the right times.
  • Help you record all information that the lung transplant team requested.
  • Drive you to and from your follow-up appointments.
  • Look for signs of unusual behavior and contact your UPMC lung transplant coordinator if anything seems wrong.
  • Shop for food and prepare meals.
  • Run errands, fill prescriptions, and do chores around the house.
  • Provide support, encouragement, and entertainment.
  • Keep family and friends informed of your needs and wishes.
  • Help you stick to your post-lung-transplant treatment plan.
  • Assist with daily activities within the home.

Life After Lung Transplant

Most people who receive a lung transplant at UPMC have good results. Visit the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients' website for more information on our outcomes.

To make the most of your new lung or lungs, it's important to follow your treatment plan and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Please be sure both you and your caregivers fully understand your personalized at-home care plan prior to discharge from the hospital.

  • Take all medications as prescribed. If you have any questions, call our office.
  • Stick with the personalized nutrition plan your nutritionist created for you, based on your medications.
  • Avoid all nicotine products.
  • Exercise regularly. Begin with your breathing exercises and short walks, as you're able. Your care team may suggest that you complete a pulmonary rehab program at UPMC's Comprehensive Lung Center.

Remember that the UPMC lung transplant team is here for you for the rest of your life. Do not hesitate to call the Cardiothoracic Transplant office at 412-648-6202 or toll free 844-548-4591.