An Overview of the Lung Transplant Surgery

Lung transplants can be performed on persons of practically any age. Single lung, double lung, bilateral sequential, and heart-lung transplant are some of the different lung transplant surgeries available to patients in need.

The majority of transplanted lungs come from dead organ donors. Transplants of this sort are called cadaveric transplants. Furthermore, people can donate long lubes (a section of the lungs) to patients and live everyday life with their remaining lungs.

Physicians or doctors can often use medication or specific breathing devices to address lung injury. However, if these treatments fail or lung function becomes life-threatening, doctors recommend a single-lung or double-lung transplant. In some situations, people with significant heart and lung diseases may require a combined heart-lung transplant.

Heart illness, severe cystic fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other diseases that cause severe lung damage may necessitate a lung transplant. These procedures carry the danger of rejection of the transplanted lung(s); bleeding, blood clots; infection, and airway blockage.

Patients are usually placed on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) waiting list once they have been accepted as transplant candidates. The length of time spent waiting varies substantially. They are determined by the organ(s) that the patient requires and the patient’s age, blood type, and the rationale for the transplant. Also, the potential donor(s) must be in good health and have a suitable blood type. Psychological evaluations will ensure that the donor is comfortable with the choices.

Patients will spend several days in the ICU and seven to fourteen days in the hospital. When the patient’s healthcare professional determines that they are ready, the hospital will transfer them from the intensive care unit to a private room on a standard nursing or transplant unit. There will be more recovery there. Many experts recommend that the patients get out of bed and walk for longer periods to improve activity. Tubes and catheters will be removed at this stage, and the patient’s diet will gradually improve as they progress to solid foods.

It is critical for the patient to have several follow-up visits after leaving the hospital. Doctors, nurses, and the relevant experts may perform blood tests, pulmonary function tests, chest X-rays, and lung tissue removal for examination during these visits.

Complications from a lung transplant can be severe and can even be deadly. Some anti-rejection drugs can raise a patient’s chances of acquiring new problems or worsening existing ones, such as diabetes, kidney damage, or hypertension. Anti-rejection medications weaken the immune system, making the patient more vulnerable to infections, especially the lungs.

The first year after a transplant is the most essential, as it is during this time that surgical problems, rejection, and infection are most likely to occur. Although some people have lived for ten years or longer after receiving a lung transplant, only approximately half of those who receive the procedure survive five years.

It’s common for patients to feel anxious or overwhelmed while waiting for a transplant, concerned about rejection, returning to work, or other concerns following the procedure. Getting help from friends and family members can assist one in coping with this difficult period. The transplant team can also provide other helpful tools and coping tactics during the transplant process, such as joining a transplant support group.

To be healthy after a lung transplant, patients may need to change their diet. High blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes can all be avoided by maintaining a healthy weight through food and exercise. A nutrition specialist (dietitian) is part of the transplant team and may talk about nutrition and diet needs and address any questions patients might have following the transplant.

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Jonathan Kiev

A cardiothoracic surgery specialist in Lexington, Kentucky, Jonathan Kiev, MD, has more than 30 years of experience in the medical and surgical field.