After the Transplant

Heart and Lung Transplant at the University of Maryland Medical Center

Now that your lung transplant procedure is over, you are ready to move on to the next phase — living with your new lung or lungs. Our lung transplant team will be with you during the hours, days, weeks and even years following your procedure. We will carefully monitor you to ensure that your lung is performing well and that you aren’t experiencing side effects or complications.

Lung Transplant: Recovery and Monitoring

The surgery lasts approximately six to eight hours. When the surgery is completed, we will take you to the intensive care unit. As you recover during the next few days, we will gradually remove the breathing tube as well as various drainage tubes and intravenous lines. We will discuss rehabilitation with you. The average length of stay in the intensive care unit is three to seven days, followed by one to two weeks in the hospital.

Careful, comprehensive post-surgical monitoring allows us to evaluate whether your body is accepting the new organ. This includes:

  • Regular lung X-rays
  • Bronchoscopies
  • Biopsies: We remove several small pieces of the lung for microscopic examination. This test is critical because if we see evidence of immune injury to the lung, then we can quickly prescribe additional therapy to reverse this process.

Complications from Lung Transplant

Lung transplantation is a major procedure. Occasionally, you may experience complications. We work with you to prevent and minimize any complications.

The main complication is that the new lung may function poorly. When this occurs, we may recommend prolonged machine support using lung ventilation strategies or even temporary artificial lung support (ECMO). Learn more about ECMO.

Lung Transplant Recovery: Living With Your New Lung

You may be excited about returning to your home and your daily activities, but you may also feel nervous about leaving the 24-hour care of the hospital. Our transplant team will work with you before your discharge to make sure you feel comfortable and confident in caring for your new lungs.

  • The Outpatient Practice: You will return to the Outpatient Practice once a week for the first month after leaving the hospital. We will perform a series of tests, including blood tests, to closely monitor your progress and adjust medications if necessary. After this initial period of intensive follow-up, we will determine a regular schedule of appointments depending on your condition.
  • Your responsibility: While transplantation can greatly improve your quality of life, it also requires that you become an active participant in preserving your health. Follow your doctor’s instructions, and make sure to take your medications regularly. 
  • Support group: Learn more about our Heart and Lung Transplant Support Group.

Lung Transplants and Immunosuppressive Medication

Transplantation has become so successful in recent years in large part through the development of new drugs, which prevent rejection of donated organs. These drugs stop the body's immune system from identifying the new organ as foreign and “attacking” it.

It is necessary for you to take immunosuppressive medication for the rest of your life following your transplant. You can undermine a successful transplant very quickly if you fail to take medications appropriately and responsibly.

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