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How is a lung transplant performed?

While the patient is under general anesthesia, the surgeon makes an incision in the chest. If it is a single lung transplant, the incision is made on the right or left side, depending on which lung is being replaced. A double (bilateral) transplant requires an incision across the chest beneath the breast area.

The donor organ, which has been chilled to preserve it until transplantation, must be transplanted within six hours after being removed from the donor. As soon as the new lung(s) arrives in the operating room, the recipient's lung is immediately removed and the donor organ is placed in the chest cavity. When it is a double transplant, the organ with the poorest function is removed first and replaced.

Once the new organ is in place, the surgeon connects the pulmonary artery, pulmonary vein and the main airway (bronchus) 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 for several days to allow the lungs to fully re-expand.

The surgery can take from four to eight hours, depending on whether it is a single or double lung transplantation and if complications occur.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.