A Lung transplant is an open surgery where a diseased or damaged lung is removed and replaced with a healthy one provided by a recently deceased donor or a couple of living donors. It is a highly effective treatment method for diseases that has destroyed most of the parts of the lungs and caused the person with serious complications such as breathing problems and blood clots. Depending on the severity of the disease, doctors choose if either one of the lungs will need to be replaced or both. In very few cases, the heart of the deceased donor is also transplanted with the lungs to the patient.
A lung transplant is done other treatment methods do not provide effective results in treating and stopping the symptoms of lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary hypertension along with cystic fibrosis and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Types of lung transplant
Single lung transplant, where only one lung is replaced from a donor
Double lung transplant where both the lungs are replaced given by a donor
Heart-lung transplant where both the lungs along with the heart is transplanted into the patient
During the treatment
You will be given instructions to follow a week before coming to the surgery. Several medical tests will be performed such as imaging test, blood tests, urine tests, etc. The surgery is performed by a highly experienced and qualified surgeon. You will be given general anesthesia so that you won’t feel the pain and become unaware of what’s going on. Once you are asleep, the surgeon will insert a long, thin tube through your mouth to the windpipe to help you breathe during the procedure. Another tube will also be inserted through your nose to the stomach for drainage and a catheter will empty your bladder.
The surgeon will then make a vertical incision in one side of your chest for a single lung transplant and a horizontal cut for a bilateral transplant. He/she will then remove the damaged lung and the blood vessels connecting the heart and the lungs will be connected to a cardiopulmonary bypass machine, also known as a heart-lung machine. The machine will begin circulating the blood and oxygen to the body while the doctor performs the operation. Once the diseased lung(s) are removed, it will be replaced with the donor’s lungs and the blood vessels will again be attached to the donor’s lungs.
The incisions will be closed with surgical staple and stitches. The operation takes about 4-8 hours for a single lung transplant and 6-12 hours for a double lung transplant.
There are so many complications associated with any open surgery. Lung transplant also has some mild and serious complications, which may or may not be avoided. Below are mentioned most common side effects of lung transplant that you should be aware of.
Rejection (Immune system rejecting the new (foreign) lung)
Blockage of blood vessels
Severe pulmonary edema
Osteoporosis (thinning of bones)
Post operative care
After the treatment, you will have to remain in the ICU for a few days with tubes placed in your chest to remove air and blood, and help the new lung(s) to expand completely. It will also help draining any fluid build ups. Your vital signs will be monitored closely and you may need to breathe through mechanical ventilator.
You may need to stay in the hospitals for weeks, but it may be shorter if your recovery is well.
Once you are discharged, you will need to visit for regular appointments with your health team for next three months for any signs of complications. Several tests will be performed during these visits to track your recovery.
Follow the prescriptions and guidelines given by your health care team as directed. Keep the incision site clean and dry for a few weeks.
You will require to take immunosuppressants drugs for the rest of your life.
Make sure to have word with your doctor, if you experience any side effects of anti-rejection drugs or any other medication