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This is a surgery to remove a severely diseased and damaged heart and lungs. They are replaced with a healthy heart and lungs from a deceased donor.
A heart-lung transplant is done if you have:
If you are planning to have a heart-lung transplant, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the procedure.
There is a shortage of donors, so you may be on a transplant list for some time. You may need to carry a cell phone with you at all times. This is to allow the transplant team to reach you if organs become available.
Your doctor will monitor your health to make sure that you are ready for the transplant. Before the surgery, your doctor will likely do the following:
Leading up to the surgery:
will be used. It will block any pain and keep you asleep through the surgery. It is given through an IV in your hand or arm.
After you are asleep, the doctor will cut through the skin and breastbone. She will open the chest and connect you to a heart-lung machine. This machine takes over the functions of the heart and lungs during the surgery. The doctors will then remove the lungs and the heart. The donor lungs will be attached. Then, the doctor will sew the new heart into place. Next, the blood vessels will be connected. The blood will start to flow and warm the heart.
The new heart may begin beating on its own, or the doctor may give you an electrical shock to get the heart started. The doctor will make sure that there are no leaks and that the heart and lungs are working fine. After this, the heart-lung machine will be disconnected. Next, temporary tubes may be placed in the chest cavity to drain any blood that has collected. The breastbone will be wired together, and the chest will be closed.
You will be closely monitored in the intensive care unit (ICU) with the help of the following devices:
You will have pain during the recovery process. Your doctor will give you pain medicine.
This surgery is done in a hospital setting. The usual length of stay is two weeks. Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if you shows signs of rejecting the new organs or have other problems.
While you are recovering at the hospital, you will need to:
Your doctor may need to take a
of your heart or lungs if you:
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
The surgical site in your breastbone heals in 4-6 weeks.
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Surgery and other medical procedures for heart failure. American Heart Association website. Available at:
Updated April 2009. Accessed September 4, 2009.
What is a lung transplant? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at:
Updated December 2008. Accessed September 4, 2009.
Last reviewed December 2013 by Michael J. Fucci, DO
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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