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Introduction to Lung Transplant

Lung transplant is surgery to transplant a diseased lung and replace it with a healthy lung. Lung transplants are used to improve the quality of life and extend the lifespan for people who have severe or advanced chronic lung conditions.

The surgery may be done for one lung or for both. Lung transplants can be done on people of almost all ages from newborns to adults up to age 65.

Need for Lung Transplant

Conditions that may damage the lungs enough to require a transplant include:



Abnormal inflamed tissues that forms in the lung causing breathing difficulties

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Inflammatory lung disease that blocks airflow to the lung

Cystic fibrosis

A genetic life-threatening disorder that causes damage to the lungs


Chronic lung disease that damages the air sacs and blocks the airflow

Pulmonary Fibrosis

Progressive and chronic disease that makes the air sacs stiff and scarred

Pulmonary Hypertension

Type of high blood pressure that blocks the arteries in the lung

Types of Lung Transplant

Single lung transplant: This is the transplant of one lung.

Double lung transplant: This is the transplant of both lungs.

Bilateral sequential transplant: This is the transplant of both lungs, done one at a time. It’s also called bilateral single.

Heart-Lung transplant: This is the transplant of both, the lungs and the heart taken from a single donor.

Most lungs that are transplanted come from deceased organ donors. This type of transplant is called a cadaveric transplant. Healthy, non-smoking adults who are a good match may be able to donate part of one of their lungs. The part of the lung is called a lobe. This type of transplant is called a living transplant. People who donate a lung lobe can live healthy lives with the remaining lungs.

Pre-Lung Transplant Process

Before getting ready for a transplant, there is a rigorous evaluation process that patients need to go through. This includes:

Lung transplant recipients who smoke must quit. They must be nicotine-free for several months before being put on the transplant list.

Tests may be done to check the lungs and overall health. These tests may include X-rays, ultrasound, CT scans, pulmonary function tests, lung biopsy, and dental exams. Women may also get a Pap test, gynaecology evaluation, and a mammogram.

Blood tests are needed to help find a good donor match. This helps improve the chances that the donor organ will not be rejected.

Cardiac catheterization is used for diagnostic tests such as angiography, arteriography, and electrophysiology studies (EPS).

This includes assessing stress, financial issues, and support by family and other loved ones. These issues can have a major effect on the outcome of a transplant.

Several immunizations will be given. These are to lessen the chance of infections that can affect the transplanted lung

Legal Requirements

The primary legislation, Transplantation of Human Organs ACT, was passed in 1994. As per this act, there are certain guidelines to be followed for receiving a transplant depending on the country of residence of the receiver or the state of life of donor. For more information, visit Legalities section of our website.

The Lung Transplant Process

The transplant team will explain the procedure in detail and resolve any other queries the patient might have. The patient should not eat or drink for 8 hours before the surgery. The following sequence of steps will happen once the operation begins.


General Anesthesia

The patient is given general anesthesia and will not be awake during the surgery

Ventilator Support

Incubation tubes will help the patient breathe, provide medication and help with other bodily functions

Mobilization and Isolation

The surgeon then opens the chest, cuts the main airway and blood vessels

Removal of diseased Lung

After transection, the structures are attached and the native, diseased lungs are removed

Sewing in the new Lung

The surgeon will connect the healthy donor lung, reconnect the blood vessels, and close the chest

Complications of Lung Transplant

As is common with any major surgery, Lung Transplant does have its fair share of complications. The complications of this procedure may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Blockage of the blood vessels to the new lung(s)
  • Blockage of the airways
  • Severe pulmonary Edema (fluid in the lung)
  • Blood clots
  • Rejection of the new lung(s)

Post-Lung Transplant Procedure

After the surgery, the patient will recover in the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) before moving to a hospital room for one to three weeks.

The doctor may recommend pulmonary rehabilitation after the lung transplant surgery to help the patient regain and improve their breathing. Pulmonary rehabilitation may include exercise training, education, and counselling. Pulmonary function tests will help doctors monitor the patient’s breathing and recovery

Life After Lung Transplant

Lung Transplants can greatly improve the quality of life of patients suffering from chronic lung conditions. It can bring them a step closer to a normal life. But there are still some precautions patients need to take in order to live a normal life.


Regular Follow Up

Over the next three months, patients will have regular appointments with the transplant team. They will monitor any signs of infection, rejection or other problems


The body may regard the new lung as foreign and attack it. Immunosuppressants prevent this from happening. Patients will need to take these medicines for the rest of their life


Practicing good hygiene, obtaining routine vaccines, and making healthy lifestyle choices are very important after a lung transplant. Adopting healthy lifestyle choices such as heart-healthy eating and not smoking are vital as well

Organ transplant success stories

Success Rate and Life Expectancy of Lungs Transplant

As medicine progresses, so does the life expectancy of patients undergoing lung transplant. There have been great strides taken in the last decade or two, which have increased the success rate and the life expectancy of patients.


Success Rate: 87%


Life Expectancy:

Increased lifespan of 1 year: 80%
Increased lifespan of 5 years: 50%

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