The Lung Transplant Procedure

Having a single lung transplant means having an operation to remove one of your diseased lungs and replacing it with a new lung. Having a bilateral lung transplant means having an operation to remove both of your diseased lungs. These lungs are replaced with healthy lungs from another human being. The new lung(s) will work to help you breathe by providing your body with oxygen and removing carbon dioxide just as your own lungs did when they were healthy. The new lung(s) will come from a person who is an organ donor.

Matching Donors and Recipients

The staff at the New England Organ Bank works to match donors with the people who are awaiting transplants. This matching is based primarily on the size of the donor and the blood type. The lungs from the donor are removed by a surgeon from the transplant team who brings the lungs to Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH). While this is happening you will be notified to come to the emergency room at BWH. You then will be transferred to the operating room where an anesthesiologist will prepare you for surgery.

Surgery

If you are having a single lung transplant, the incision will be made on your side, either right or left, about six inches below your underarm. A small section of the rib will be removed permanently to allow access to the surgical site. Your old lung will be removed through this opening, and the new lung will be implanted.
In the case of a bilateral lung transplant, the incision will run across the lower part of your chest. One lung will be removed and the new one implanted; then the second lung will be removed and the new one implanted.

The lung, whether part of a single or double transplant, is connected to the pulmonary artery, pulmonary veins, and the main-stem bronchus (airway). The incision or incisions are closed and a dressing is applied. The incisions will be uncomfortable and will take several weeks to heal.

Once your surgery has been completed and the lung transplant is a technical success, we will continue to monitor you closely to evaluate your overall health and the health of your new lung. Patients should expect to be hospitalized for about 2-3 weeks after surgery, but patients sometimes stay longer than this, particularly if complications occur. The two major complications that we look closely for during the first few weeks are the rejection of the new lung and infection.  For the first few months after returning home, you will come to the hospital once a week to be seen by one or more members of our team.

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