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What To Expect During a Lung Transplant

Just before lung transplant surgery, you will get general anesthesia (AN-es-THE-ze-ah). The term "anesthesia" refers to a loss of feeling and awareness. With general anesthesia, you will be asleep during the surgery and not feel any pain.

Once you're asleep, your doctors will make a small incision (cut) in your chest. Next, they will insert a central venous catheter into a vein. This tube allows easy access to your bloodstream. Doctors use it to deliver fluids and medicines to your body.

Your doctors also will insert a tube in your mouth and down your windpipe to help you breathe. They also will insert a tube in your nose and down to your stomach to drain contents from your stomach. A catheter will be used to keep your bladder empty.

The surgeon will make a cut in your chest to open it. He or she will then cut the main airway to your diseased lung and the blood vessels connecting your lung to your heart.

The surgeon will remove your diseased lung and place the donor organ in your chest. Then the surgeon will connect the main airway of the donor lung to your airway and its blood vessels to your heart.

Lung Transplant

The illustration shows the process of a lung transplant. In figure A, the airway and blood vessels between a recipient’s diseased right lung and heart are cut. The inset image shows the location of the lungs and heart in the body. In figure B, a healthy donor lung is stitched to the recipient’s blood vessels and airway.

The illustration shows the process of a lung transplant. In figure A, the airway and blood vessels between a recipient’s diseased right lung and heart are cut. The inset image shows the location of the lungs and heart in the body. In figure B, a healthy donor lung is stitched to the recipient’s blood vessels and airway.

If you're having a double-lung transplant, you may be connected to a heart-lung bypass machine. This machine takes over for your heart and pumps oxygen-rich blood to your body. For more information about the heart-lung bypass machine and an illustration, go to the Diseases and Conditions Index Heart Surgery article.

During a double-lung transplant, the surgeon will remove your diseased lungs, one at a time, and replace them with the donor lungs.

A single-lung transplant usually takes 4 to 8 hours. A double-lung transplant usually takes 6 to 12 hours.

Some people may need a heart–lung transplant. A heart–lung transplant is surgery in which both the heart and lung(s) are replaced with healthy organs from a deceased donor. For this surgery, you're connected to a heart-lung bypass machine.

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May 1, 2011