Lung transplant is a complex, but often life-saving, surgery for people with lung failure. The procedure involves removing one or both diseased lungs and replacing them with new healthy ones.
Your UPMC transplant coordinator will call you when a donor lung or lungs become available.
Before coming to UPMC for your lung transplant:
The surgeon will evaluate the donor lung or lungs to make sure they are the right size and type and that the antibody panel is a match.
When you arrive at UPMC, we will admit you to a patient room where you will:
We will prep you for lung transplant surgery and give you general anesthesia.
The duration of lung transplant surgery depends on the complexity of your case.
During a lung transplant procedure, your surgeon will perform the following steps:
Your coordinator or surgeon will be able to provide more details about your specific surgery.
During the procedure — most often with a double-lung transplant — we may connect you to a heart-lung machine.
This machine supports your heart and lungs during surgery. It oxygenates your blood outside your body and pumps it back into your body.
UPMC's team of lung transplant experts performs many complex lung transplant operations. We're equipped to handle the risks of surgery and address any complications.
To expand the pool of suitable donor lungs, we use a process called ex vivo lung perfusion (EVLP), which keeps a pair of lungs alive outside the body so that a surgeon can evaluate them for transplant.
We use special techniques and surgical tools for transplanting lungs in people with small chests.
We also offer “bloodless” surgery for patients who meet strict health requirements. Bloodless medicine means we do not use banked blood products during the operation.
After lung transplant surgery, we will take you to the transplant intensive care unit (ICU) where you will stay for several days. Here, you will remain on a ventilator until you can breathe on your own. This may take a few hours to a few days.
We will give you pain medicine and anti-rejection drugs right away.
When your body detects your new lung or lungs, your immune system begins working to fight what it views as a threat. Anti-rejection drugs suppress your immune system's natural response to allow your body to accept the new lungs.
When you're stronger, you will move to a patient room within the transplant unit. You can expect to stay in the hospital for 3 to 4 weeks.
The lung transplant team will monitor your progress to make sure your body isn't rejecting the lungs and that you aren't developing an infection or other problems.
You'll begin rehabilitation, including physical therapy and breathing and speech exercises.
As you recover, your care team will have you up and moving to help prevent blood clots, and keep your smaller airways in your new lungs from collapsing.
You may be kept at NPO status (nothing by mouth) for days to months post transplant to ensure that your swallowing function is working correctly and also to prevent aspiration of food or drink into your new lungs.
Before leaving the hospital, your lung transplant care team will review:
Be sure you both fully understand your at-home care plan before you leave the hospital.