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Lung Transplant Surgery: What You Need to Know

Lung Transplant Surgery: What You Need to Know

Lung transplant surgery is actually a complex and life-saving procedure for people with lung failure. The surgery involves replacing a lung or both diseased with new and healthy lungs that can come from one or two donors. A donor is typically an individual who’s died. But in rare cases, it can be taken from a living donor.

Lung transplant surgery is a recommended treatment option for individuals with end-stage lung disease. Despite the advancement in the medical treatment of chronic lung diseases, lung transplantation remains the best option to improve the quality of life of a patient with lung disease.

When a lung transplant is needed

A lung transplant will be recommended if:

  • The individual has an advanced lung disease that’s not responding to other methods of treatment
  • A person’s life expectancy is 2 to three years without a transplant

A lung transplant may be recommended for the following conditions:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – a general term for a variety of conditions that cause damage to the lungs, usually due to smoking.
  • Cystic fibrosis – an inherited condition that causes the lungs and gastrointestinal system to become clogged up with thick, sticky mucus
  • Hypertension – elevated blood pressure
  • Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis – scarring of the lungs

Types of transplant

There are 3 main types of lung transplant:

Single lung transplant

Here, one damaged lung is replaced with a lung from the donor; except with pulmonary fibrosis, because the remaining lung might contaminate the donated lung.

Double lung transplant

Both lungs are removed and replaced with 2 donor lungs. This is often usually the most recommended treatment option for people with CF or COPD.

Heart-lung transplant

The heart and both lungs are replaced with donated organs. This is often recommended for people with severe pulmonary hypertension.

In many instances, the demand for lung transplants is greater than the available supply of donated lungs. So lung transplants are only administered if there is a relatively good chance of it being successful.

Lung Transplant Surgery

A lung transplant typically takes between 3 1/2 and 10 hours to complete, depending on the complexity of the operation.

A cut is formed in your chest and the damaged lungs are removed.

Depending on the case, a patient may be connected to a heart and lung bypass machine to keep blood circulating during the operation.

The donor lungs will be attached to the relevant airways and blood vessels, and the chest is closed.

A lung transplant is a major operation, which will take a minimum of 3 months to fully recover from and heal. It might be a while before the patient is able to return to work.

Risks

A lung transplant is a complex surgical procedure that carries a high level of risk. A common complication is that the body of the concerned individual rejects the donated lung/s. Because of this, drugs referred to as immunosuppressants are given to help the body accept the organs and heal. But taking immunosuppressives carries its own risks as they magnify the chance of infection.

Prognosis

Lung transplants have truly improved over the years. With proper medical care before and after the operation, the majority of people will have a successful lung transplant.

The success rates of lung transplants are high, with 6 out of 10 individuals extending their lives by 5 to 10 years. There are reports of patients living for 25 years or more after a successful lung transplant. Although complications may still occur at any time, significant complications arise within the first year after the transplant.

Learn more about Medical Procedures and Surgeries here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Honey Buenaventura Updated 4 weeks ago
Fact Checked by Kristel Dacumos-Lagorza
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