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What To Expect Before a Lung Transplant

If you get into a medical center's transplant program, you'll be placed on the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network's (OPTN's) national waiting list. Your transplant team will work with you to make sure you're ready for the transplant if a donor lung becomes available.

Waiting for a donor lung can be frustrating. However, you can do several things to prepare.

  • Go to all of your medical appointments with the transplant team. Take all of your medicines as prescribed.
  • Stay as healthy as possible. Don't smoke, and follow your doctor's advice about breathing exercises, physical activity, diet, and drinking alcohol.
  • Talk regularly with your transplant team. You and your family should know what to do if a donor lung becomes available. You also should know what to expect before, during, and after the transplant.
  • Be ready to go to the transplant center right away if a donor lung becomes available. Make sure the transplant center knows how to reach you at any time, day or night. Your transplant team may give you a pager so they can reach you right away. Make travel and lodging plans in advance. Have a packed suitcase ready to go.

While you wait for a lung, you may feel worried, scared, anxious, or depressed. These feelings are normal in this situation. Talk with your health care team about how you feel. They can offer tips for coping with your emotions. Family and friends also can offer support.

When a Donor Lung Becomes Available

OPTN matches donor lungs to recipients based on need. OPTN will consider how severe a person's disease is and how quickly it's worsening. OPTN also will consider whether the transplant will improve the recipient's chances of survival, and by how much.

Organs are matched for blood type and the size of the donor lung and the recipient.

If OPTN and your transplant center think they have a good match for you, the center will ask you to come in as soon as possible.

Once you arrive, your team will do tests to make sure you're healthy enough to have the surgery and that the lung is a good match. If you're healthy enough and the lung is a good match, the team will prepare you for surgery.

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Last Updated: May 1, 2011