What is lung transplant surgery like?

Every transplant involves two operations: The first operation involves a transplant surgeon who goes to the donor's hospital and recovers the lungs. The other operation transplants those lungs into the recipient.

Lung transplant surgery typically takes up to six hours, though people are usually in the OR much longer. Before the surgery begins, care is provided in the operating room by nurses and an anesthesiologist. They place intravenous lines and provide medication to help recipients relax. The surgery does not begin until the surgeon recovering the donor lungs calls to report that the lungs are healthy and in good condition to transplant. Once the lungs have been accepted, recipients are prepared for transplant surgery.

During the surgery, the new lung is placed in the chest and connected to the bronchus (airway), the pulmonary artery (the vessel that carries blood to the lungs) and two pulmonary veins (which carry blood from the lungs back to the heart) to each lung. The surgical incision is either in the middle of the chest or on the side of the chest under the arm.

Continue Learning about Lung Transplant

Can a person who was a heavy smoker be a lung donor?
The Society of Thoracic SurgeonsThe Society of Thoracic Surgeons
Lungs from carefully selected donors with a heavy smoking history can be used with good results in a...
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Can the lungs of people older than 60 be used for transplants?
The Society of Thoracic SurgeonsThe Society of Thoracic Surgeons
With a scarcity of lungs available for transplantation, the use of lungs from donors older than age ...
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How do living donor lung transplantations work?
National Kidney FoundationNational Kidney Foundation
Living donor lung transplantation involves two adults giving the right and left lower lobes from eac...
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What happens before a lung transplant operation?
NewYork-Presbyterian HospitalNewYork-Presbyterian Hospital
When a compatible donor organ becomes available, lung(s) must be transplanted into the recipient wit...
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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.