Lung transplantation is a procedure during which one or two diseased lungs are replaced with healthy lungs from a donor. This surgery is typically required when a child has end-stage lung disease and no longer responds to other treatment types. Donor organs can either be full or partial, whereas two or more individuals can donate lobes of their lungs to comprise a whole organ.
What is it?
Lung transplants are very serious, complicated operations that are considered last resort options for patients. They are performed when lung conditions no longer respond to other treatments or when the patient has a life expectancy of under two years without a transplant. Common reasons for needing a lung transplant include cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pulmonary hypertension, and heart disease. During a lung transplant, the affected tissues are removed and replaced with healthy donor tissues. Lung transplants can vary greatly on how much of the lung is removed, if both are removed, and if additional organs are transplanted at the same time.
What should I do to prepare?
Individuals will need to undergo various blood tests and other screenings prior to surgery. Individuals should not consume food within twenty-four hours prior to the procedure and may need to avoid certain dietary supplements and medications. Since you may have to wait months or even years before a donor lung becomes available, patients should always be in contact with the transplant team and be prepared to go to the hospital at all times.
What happens during the process?
Patients will be given general anesthesia for this surgery. Catheters may be inserted into the patient’s groin, wrist, leg, arm, bladder, or abdomen. A tube will then be placed in the trachea and mouth to help the patient breathe during surgery. The patient may also be placed on a heart-lung machine to circulate the blood during the procedure. A surgical incision will be made in the chest, but may be small or large based on the extent of the transplant. After the surgeon removes the diseased portions of the lung, the blood vessels from the donor organ and the recipient are connected. After the transplant has been performed, tubes are inserted into the chest cavity to remove air and fully expand the lungs. After suturing and bandaging the wounds, the surgeon may also insert a catheter to inject pain medication directly into the patient’s back. A lung transplant may take anywhere from 4 to 12 hours.
What are the risks and potential complications?
Some associated risks and complications include, but are not limited to, excessive bleeding and infection, blockage of the blood vessels, blockage of the airway, severe pulmonary edema, blood clots, rejection of the donor lung, and the side-effects associated with immunosuppressants.
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