Before Lung Transplant: What to Expect

Receiving a lung transplant can be a life-changing experience. At the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center, our specialists thoroughly prepare you for your transplant to ensure the best possible outcome for your long-term health.

Before having lung transplant surgery, you and your loved ones receive one-on-one attention to prepare you physically, emotionally and financially for the procedure. This preparation includes the evaluation process, the waiting list and pulmonary rehabilitation before surgery.

These presurgery steps are just one part of the transplant process. Learn more about lung transplant surgery and what to expect after lung transplant surgery.

Evaluation Process

Your first step towards a lung transplant is a four-day outpatient evaluation by all members of our lung transplant team. Our specialists conduct all the testing in one convenient location: the Center for Advanced Medicine on the campus of Barnes-Jewish Hospital. These tests may include:

  • Psychosocial evaluation to ensure you have a personal support system in place and to address any emotions you may have surrounding the process
  • Blood tests to help doctors determine your blood and tissue type for organ matching purposes and to provide information about your overall health
  • Imaging tests such as a chest X-ray or a CT scan, which uses X-rays and computers, to view the overall condition and size of your lungs
  • Lung function tests to help us determine how well the lungs work, the severity of lung disease and what treatments to pursue
  • Lung ventilation/perfusion scan, a special imaging test that measures breathing and blood circulation through the lungs
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG) to assess the electrical activity of the heart, as a healthy heart helps to ensure a successful lung transplant
  • Heart catheterization to detect whether the arteries feeding the heart and the heart valves are working properly
  • Radionuclide ventriculogram (RVG), a scan which determines how well the heart can pump blood

Using results from these tests, our team determines whether you are a candidate for a lung transplant. If you are eligible for the procedure, we place you on a transplant waiting list.

If tests show that your lungs are healthy enough to postpone a transplant, we won’t place you on a waiting list at this time. Tests may also show you have underlying health problems that make you ineligible for a transplant.

Regardless of whether we place you on the wait list, our healthcare providers are here to help you manage your lung condition.

Waiting List

Once you become a lung transplant candidate, our team places you on a transplant waiting list through the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). UNOS assists with matching, transporting and sharing organs throughout the country. 

Because of new criteria, the wait time for a lung transplant has decreased from about two years to four months. At Barnes-Jewish Hospital, the wait time is even shorter because of the local organ procurement organization (OPO) we work with, Mid-America Transplant

This OPO is the first in the country to use an in-house operating room to remove donor organs, including lungs. Their doctors and nurses work to increase the number of available organs and the likelihood they can be transplanted.

Typically, there are more than 1,000 people in the U.S. waiting for new lungs. The length of time a patient spends on the waiting list largely depends on the medical urgency of their situation. Other factors that can affect wait time include:

  • Blood type
  • Tissue type
  • Height and weight of transplant candidate
  • Size of donated organ
  • Time already spent on the waiting list
  • Distance between the donor’s hospital and the potential organ recipient

One of the goals of our transplant program is to let you stay in the comfort of your own home while you’re waiting for a transplant. This is often possible through specialized treatments for your lung condition, making the waiting time less disruptive to your life.

Pulmonary Rehabilitation Before Surgery 

As you wait for a lung transplant, you attend daily pulmonary rehabilitation sessions. These sessions keep patients in the best physical condition possible, improving surgery outcomes and recovery times. 

If you live in the St. Louis area, you can come to pulmonary rehabilitation sessions at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. If you live outside the area, we can help you set up pulmonary rehabilitation sessions near your home.

Contact Us

For more information on the lung transplant program or to schedule an evaluation at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, call 866-888-9337.

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