Our mission is to improve the lives of lung transplant patients and their families.

When you awaken

When you wake up in the recovery room or ICU, you will be closely monitored for at least several days. You will have a tube in your throat so that your breathing can be assisted with a ventilator until you are stable enough to breathe on your own. You will be connected to monitors that will constantly display your electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) tracing, blood pressure, breathing rate, and oxygen level.

Your immediate family members should be able to see you when you wake up. Each hospital has its own policy on visitors, so it is advisable to check on your transplant center’s policy before your surgery.

You may have a thin, plastic tube inserted through your nose into your stomach to remove air that you swallow. The tube will be removed when your bowels resume normal function. You will not be able to eat or drink until the tube is removed. You will also have four to eight chest tubes in the sides of your torso to drain fluid around your new lungs. These will be removed before you leave the hospital.

Blood samples will be taken frequently to monitor the status of your new lung(s) and to check the functioning of your body’s other organs such as your kidneys, liver, and heart. You may be on special IV drips to control your blood pressure and your heart rhythms, and to control any problems with bleeding. As your condition stabilizes, these drips will be gradually weaned down and turned off as you can tolerate. You will have several chest tubes protruding from your skin near your ribs that are inserted to drain air, blood, or infection from the space surrounding your lungs. You will receive pain medication as needed, administered either by a nurse, through an epidural catheter, or by clicking a device connected to your intravenous line.

Your immunosuppression (anti-rejection) medications will be closely monitored to make sure you are receiving the optimum dose and the best combination of medications. Once the breathing and stomach tubes have been removed and your condition has stabilized, you may start drinking liquids. On occasion, a patient’s vocal cords are damaged during surgery, which can impair your ability to swallow. If this happens, you will be required to add a thickener to all liquids until your vocal cords are repaired. Afterward, your diet will gradually advance to more solid foods.

Your physical therapy will begin as soon as possible after you wake up. It may begin when you are still in the ICU or on a ventilator. Typically, when you have been off of the ventilator for 48 hours, you will be moved to a regular nursing or transplant unit. Nurses, respiratory therapists, and physical therapists will continue to help you with physical therapy and breathing exercises. Your activity will be gradually increased as you get out of bed and walk around for longer periods of time. Your diet will be advanced to solid foods as tolerated. Nurses, pharmacists, dietitians, physical therapists, and other members of the transplant team will teach you how to take care of yourself once you are discharged from the hospital. Lung transplant surgery typically requires an in-hospital stay of at least seven days.

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