Overview A lung transplant is a surgical procedure to replace a diseased or failing lung with a healthy lung, usually from a deceased donor. A lung transplant is reserved for people who have tried medications or other treatments, but their conditions haven’t sufficiently improved. Depending on your medical condition, a lung transplant may involve replacing […]
A lung transplant is a surgical procedure to replace a diseased or failing lung with a healthy lung, usually from a deceased donor. A lung transplant is reserved for people who have tried medications or other treatments, but their conditions haven’t sufficiently improved.
Depending on your medical condition, a lung transplant may involve replacing one of your lungs or both of them. In some situations, the lungs may be transplanted along with a donor heart.
While a lung transplant is a major operation that can involve many complications, it can greatly improve your health and quality of life.
When faced with a decision about having a lung transplant, know what to expect of the lung transplant process, the surgery itself, potential risks and follow-up care.
Why it’s done
Unhealthy or damaged lungs can make it difficult for your body to get the oxygen it needs to survive. A variety of diseases and conditions can damage your lungs and keep them from functioning effectively. Some of the more common causes include:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema
- Scarring of the lungs (pulmonary fibrosis)
- Cystic fibrosis
- High blood pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension)
Lung damage can often be treated with medication or with special breathing devices. But when these measures no longer help or your lung function becomes life-threatening, your health care provider might suggest a single-lung transplant or a double-lung transplant.
Some people with coronary artery disease may need a procedure to restore blood flow to a blocked or narrowed artery in the heart, in addition to a lung transplant. In some cases, people with serious heart and lung conditions may need a combined heart-lung transplant.
What You Can Expect
The procedure will be done with general anesthesia, so you will be unaware and won’t feel any pain. You’ll have a tube guided through your mouth and into your windpipe so that you can breathe.
Your surgeon will make a cut in your chest to remove your damaged lung. The main airway to that lung and the blood vessels between that lung and your heart will then be connected to the donor lung. For some lung transplants, you may be connected to a heart-lung bypass machine, which circulates your blood during the procedure
A lung transplant can substantially improve your quality of life. The first year after the transplant — when surgical complications, rejection and infection pose the greatest threats — is the most critical period.
Although some people have lived 10 years or more after a lung transplant, only about half the people who undergo the procedure are still alive after five years.