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Lung Transplant Surgery

At the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center, our lung transplant surgeons are some of the most experienced in the world. With one of the highest volume programs in the country, our doctors have performed more than 1,600 lung transplants in adults since the program began in 1988. 

Our doctors have pioneered surgical approaches to lung transplant that are now used worldwide, demonstrating our commitment to improving patient care. Our surgical expertise results in excellent short- and long-term survival rates that consistently exceed national averages.

Lung Transplant Surgery: Our Approach 

The lung transplant process begins with a four-day evaluation. If you are eligible, we place you on the transplant waiting list. Read more about what to expect before lung transplant surgery

Once you are on the waiting list, our team of specialists manages your lung disease. We also help you prepare for transplant with pulmonary rehabilitation and education about post-surgery follow-up care. We stay in frequent contact with you throughout the waiting period. 

During this period, we may call you at any time to receive a transplant. We need to transplant the lung(s) as soon as possible after they are removed from a donor, so time is critical. This is why you are usually asked to be within four to five hours of the hospital while on the waiting list. 

Learn more about the lung transplant process.

Lung Transplant Surgery: What to Expect

Surgery for a lung transplant generally takes about four to five hours. Our doctors often transplant both lungs instead of one for the best possible breathing function, quality of life and survival rate.

While the patient is under general anesthesia, the surgeon:

  1. Makes an incision in the chest
  2. Removes the patient's diseased lungs and replaces them with healthy donor lungs
  3. Connects the pulmonary artery, pulmonary vein and the main airway of the donor lungs to the patient's vessels and airway
  4. Inserts drainage tubes to drain air, fluid and blood out of the chest. These tubes remain in place for several days after surgery.

Once you are out of surgery, you receive exceptional care throughout the recovery process and into long-term follow-up care. Learn more about what to expect after lung transplant.

Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) for Lung Transplant 

We offer a specialized treatment called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) to support lung function before surgery in patients with advanced lung disease or respiratory failure. ECMO is also available immediately after transplant surgery to help with recovery if needed. 

ECMO performs the role of a healthy heart and lungs, adding oxygen to the body. It involves running a patient’s blood through a machine that removes carbon dioxide and adds oxygen. The blood is then returned to the heart and pumped to the rest of the body. Barnes-Jewish is one of the largest providers of ECMO treatments in the country.

Contact Us

For more information on the lung transplant program or to schedule an evaluation at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, call 866.888.9337.