What to Expect When Considering a Transplant

“A potential transplant patient will be looked over
from the hair on the top of their heads all the way down to their toenails.”

—Susan Long, LCSW, Transplant Social Worker at Loyola Hospital, Chicago

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Transplant Evaluation:
You will be evaluated by a transplant team which may include: a pulmonologist, transplant surgeon, transplant nurse coordinator, transplant social worker, dietician, psychologist, physical therapist and insurance coordinator. Your physical health will be closely evaluated as well as your emotional health and social support system.

Following Evaluation:
Once you are evaluated and a decision has been made to proceed with the transplant, you are given a Lung Allocation Score (LAS) based on a variety of factors including your age, severity of disease, lung, heart and kidney function, and the laboratory values from your tests. This score determines your place on the UNOS waiting list.

Receiving Placement on the Waiting List:
You are on the transplant list. And the waiting begins. This can be an incredibly stressful time in your life and in your family’s life. Remember to take care of your health, follow your exercise and dietary guideline, keep up with your pulmonary rehabilitation program and keep all of your scheduled appointments with your physicians. Your transplant center may offer a support group to individuals awaiting a transplant. Always make sure your transplant team can reach you during this time because you never know when they will make the call that they have new lungs for you.

Transplant Surgery:
The surgery can last anywhere from four to ten hours depending on several factors including whether it is a single or double lung transplant, your current medical condition and the institution where the transplant is being performed.

Following Surgery:
After your surgery, your transplant team will manage any post-op challenges that may arise. You will begin taking anti-rejection medications as well as immunosuppressants and any side effects or adverse reactions will be closely monitored. Remember everyone will adjust to their new lungs and medications differently.

Before you leave the hospital to go home, make sure you and your caregiver review with your transplant team: your medication schedule, your follow-up appointments, your diet & exercise restrictions, how to safely prepare your home for your arrival, and how to manage your pain.

Remember:
A lung transplant is a major surgery and it will take some time to feel like yourself again. Some transplant recipients will take longer to feel better than others but do not get discouraged and lean on your support system! Additionally, a lung transplant may not be an option for all patients and some patients may choose to opt out of a lung transplant. Whatever the case, it is crucial to have a support system in place and discuss all of your options with a medical professional.