When you're on a transplant waiting list, you may be called at any time to receive a lung that has become available. Speed is critical at this time, which is why patients are usually asked to be within two and half hours of the hospital while they are on the waiting list. The donor organ must be transplanted as soon as possible after being removed from the donor.
Surgery for a lung transplant generally takes from four to six hours. While the patient is under general anesthesia, the surgeon makes an incision in the chest. The location of the incision depends if the patient is having a single or bilateral lung transplant.
When the new organ is ready, the patient's lung is removed and replaced with the donor lung. Then the surgeon connects the pulmonary artery, pulmonary vein and the main airway of the donor organ to the patient's vessels and airway. Drainage tubes are inserted to drain air, fluid, and blood out of the chest. These will be in place for several days after surgery.
You can expect to stay in the hospital about two weeks if you have an uncomplicated lung transplant.
For more information on the lung transplant program at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, call