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Your Lung Transplantation Procedure - What to Expect Before & After Your Surgery

Woman laughing with a man The timing of your lung transplantation procedure at Tampa General Hospital will depend on two factors – your position on the lung transplant wait list and the availability of a suitable lung. When an appropriate organ becomes available for you, it’s essential that you report to the hospital as soon as possible. For that reason, you need to be ready to answer our phone call at any time, day or night. You should also ensure that your donor coordinator has contact information for your friends and family members, so we can reach you promptly. When that call comes in, our donor coordinator will give you instructions that you should follow in anticipation of your impending lung transplantation procedure at TGH. These directions will include:

  • Taking your charged cell phone, the hospital’s phone number, and your coordinator’s name with you, in case you need to contact us on the way to the hospital
  • Packing the essential items that you’ll need in the hospital, like your transplant handbook
  • Halting all eating and drinking (be sure to mention if you have recently taken insulin)
  • Making plans to have a family member or friend drive you to TGH

Additionally, you should ask the coordinator if you should continue taking any medications, including insulin. When you arrive at TGH, you’ll check in at the admissions department and go to your room to prepare for lung transplant surgery. Your family members can stay with you until it’s time for your lung transplantation procedure; they will then be shown to the waiting room, where surgical staff will give them updates throughout your transplant. A lung transplantation procedure will typically take between four and eight hours, and once yours is completed, you will be taken to the cardiothoracic intensive care unit (CTICU) to begin your recovery.

Due to the medications administered during the lung transplantation procedure, you may be slow to wake. When you do, you’ll see that several tubes – including intravenous lines or IVs (to administer medications, test fluid pressures, and draw blood), chest tubes (to drain off fluid in the chest), a breathing tube (to make breathing easier), a nasogastric tube (to empty your stomach and prevent nausea), and a Foley catheter (to drain urine from the bladder) – were placed in your body to make your lung transplantation procedure and recovery smoother. You will also be given medications to relieve your pain and help you relax.

After your lung transplantation procedure, you’ll stay in the CTICU until you have stabilized and had your breathing tube removed, and your immediate family will be allowed to visit you during limited hours. After you are taken to your private room in the transplant unit, one family member will be allowed to stay with you as long as no medical issues prevent it. Please note that children under 12 are not allowed into the transplant unit due to transplant patients’ high risk of infection, but we can arrange meetings with children in a separate unit.

Over the seven to 14 days you stay at TGH after your lung transplantation procedure (or longer in certain cases), you will be visited by your surgeons and the rest of your lung transplant center medical team for blood tests, X-rays, and other tests to check on your progress. During your stay, you and your care partner will also need to attend classes to learn about your post-operative care, including how to address your nutritional needs.

Also, before you are discharged, we will perform a bronchoscopy to check for rejection of your new lung. If the results are satisfactory, you will be allowed to leave the hospital. Discharge from the hospital is just the beginning of your recovery. You will need to remain in the area for the first two months following your lung transplantation procedure to make frequent follow-up visits to TGH’s Cardiac & Lung Transplant Clinic.