Lung Transplant Procedure

What happens during a lung transplant?

Lung transplant requires a stay in a hospital. The way the procedure is done may vary. It depends on your condition and your healthcare provider's methods. In most cases, the procedure will follow this process:

  • You will be asked to remove your clothes and given a hospital gown to wear. You will also be asked to remove jewelry or other objects.
  • A plastic bracelet with your name and an identification number will be put on your wrist. You may get a second bracelet if you have allergies.
  • An intravenous (IV) line will be put in your arm or hand.
  • Thin, flexible tubes (catheters) will be put in your neck, wrist, under the collarbone (subclavian), or the groin. These are used to monitor your heart and blood pressure, and to take blood samples.
  • You will lie down on an operating table. For a single lung transplant, you will lie on your side. For a bilateral sequential lung transplant, you will lie on your back with your arms above your head.
  • You will be given general anesthesia. This is medicine that prevents pain and lets you sleep through the procedure.
  • A breathing tube will be put into your throat and hooked up to a breathing machine (ventilator). Your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing will be watched during the procedure.
  • A catheter will be put into your bladder to drain urine during the surgery.
  • Hair at the surgical site may be trimmed. The skin will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution.
  • The surgeon will make a cut (incision) in your chest. For a single lung transplant, the incision will be made on the side of chest where the lung will be replaced. For a bilateral sequential transplant, the incision will be made horizontally across the chest below the breasts.
  • Depending on your lung condition and the type of transplant being done, you may be put on a cardiopulmonary bypass machine (heart-lung machine). This machine sends blood and oxygen to your body during the procedure.
  • The diseased lung(s) will be removed and replaced with the donor lung(s). The new lung's blood vessels and airways will be attached. For a bilateral sequential transplant, the lungs will be attached one at a time.
  • The incision will be closed with stitches or surgical staples.
  • A bandage or dressing will be put on the incision site.
  • One or more tubes will be put in your chest. These are to remove air, fluid, and blood from the chest and to allow the new lung(s) to expand fully.
  • A thin tube (epidural catheter) may be put in. This is done to send pain medicine into your back. It may be done in the operating room or in the recovery room.