Lung Transplant

1 What is a Lung Transplant?

A surgical procedure to replace a failing or diseased lung with a healthy lung that is mostly from a deceased donor is called lung transplant.

Sometimes a lung transplant involves replacing one or both of your lungs depending on your condition or it can be transplanted along with a donor's heart.

2 Reasons for Procedure

Here are the most common reasons to receive a lung transplant.

It can be difficult for your body to get the oxygen it needs to survive if you have damaged or unhealthy lungs.

A variety of diseases and conditions can damage your lungs and hinder their ability to function effectively, including:

Medication or with special breathing devices are often the treatment of lung damage but your doctor may suggest lung transplant if any of these treatments do not work.

3 Potential Risks

The two major risks of complications for lung transplant re-infection and rejection.

For risks of infection, your body will become more vulnerable to infection especially the lung because anti-rejection drugs suppress your immune system and to help prevent infections you must:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Take good care of your mouth and teeth.
  • Avoid crowds and people who are ill.
  • Received appropriate vaccinations.
  • Protect your skin from sores and scratches.

For rejection, your immune system will attack foreign substances and try to reject your lungs. Your drug regimen after transplant will include medications to suppress your immune system in an effort to prevent organ rejection. You'll likely take these anti-rejection drugs for the rest of your life.

The possible side effects of the anti-rejection drugs include:

  • Rounder face
  • Weight gain
  • Stomach problems
  • Facial hair
  • Acne

Some of these medicines too can increase your risk of aggravating existing conditions such as:

4 Preparing for your Procedure

In preparing for your lung transplant, you must follow your doctor’s orders. 

There are far more people who need lung transplant compared to available donated lungs.

The donor-recipient matching system administered by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) finds an appropriate match when a donor organ becomes available.

And the specific criteria include:

  • The size of the organ compared with chest cavity.
  • Blood type.
  • The severity of the recipient’s lung disease.
  • Geographic distance between the donor organ and transplant recipient.
  • The likelihood that the transplant will be successful.
  • Recipient’s overall health.

It may take months or even years before a suitable donor becomes available, but you must be prepared to act quickly when one does. Let your transplant team know where you are.

Arrange for transportation and bring only a handy bag at the hospital. You will undergo tests to make sure you are healthy enough to have the surgery and that the lung is a good match.

The donor lung also must be healthy or it will be declined by the transplant team. If it doesn't appear that the surgery will be a success, it will be cancelled.

5 What to Expect

Here you can find out what to expect from your lung transplant procedure.

You will be under a general anesthesia. Your doctor will insert a tube through your mouth and into your windpipe to help you breathe as well as a tube in your nose down to your stomach to drain your stomach contents.

Your doctor will also put catheter. To remove your diseased lung your surgeon will make an incision in your chest.

The main airway to that lung and the blood vessels between that lung and your heart will then be connected to the donor's lung.

A single-lung transplant takes about four to eight hours to complete, while a double-lung transplant usually takes six to 12 hours.

Your doctor will attach tubes in your chest to drain fluids from around your lungs and heart, and a mechanical ventilator to help you breathe for a few days at the hospital.

To control pain and to prevent rejection of your new lung a tube in a vein will deliver strong medications.

Recovery often involves a one-to-three-week hospital stay. You will be monitored by your doctor for three months after the lung transplant to check for complications to see the function of your new lungs.

Your follow-up visits may involve laboratory tests, chest X-rays, an electrocardiogram (ECG) and checkups with a specialist.

To sustain your new lung you must live a healthy lifestyle. You are not allowed to smoke and you should avoid drinking. Follow a healthy and nutritious diet. Exercise regularly for the rehabilitation of your lungs.

6 Procedure Results

Understanding the results of your lung transplant will be made possible by your doctor.

The lung transplant can improve the quality of your life. The first year is the most critical period wherein surgical complications, rejection and infection pose the greatest threats.

Studies say that only about half the people who undergo the procedure are still alive after five years although some people have lived 10 years or more after a lung transplant.

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