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Healthy lungs allow you to breathe normally, providing oxygen and removing carbon dioxide throughout your entire body. End-stage lung failure is when your lungs no longer function.
A lung transplant removes a diseased lungs and replaces them with a healthy ones from a donor who has died.
Who Needs a Lung Transplant
People who are candidates for lung transplant are those likely to die from lung disease within two years. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is the most common condition treated with lung transplant. The cause is unknown (idiopathic), and there is no cure for this thickening and scarring of the lung tissue.
Depending on your condition, you may have one lung transplanted or two.
Lung Transplant Evaluation
You or your doctor can request a lung transplant evaluation. Call 410-328-2864.
Our lung transplant nurse coordinator will help you get your medical records from other doctors and providers. We will review your and your family’s medical history. You will have a thorough physical exam and test to determine the cause of your lung failure.
You will also meet with your transplant team made up of pulmonologists, surgeons and nurse practitioners who work with our experienced specialists in:
- Infectious disease
- Physical therapy
- Social services
Your lung transplant team will meet with you as well as your family members and friends who make up your healthcare and social support network. We will work with you and your doctor to make sure lung transplant is the best option for you and will discuss the risks and benefits. Your transplant nurse coordinator is your primary contact from evaluation through post-transplant care.
If lung transplant is your best treatment option, we will place you on the transplant waiting list at the University of Maryland Medical Center. This national lung transplant waiting list is organized through the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).
The wait time depends on the donor supply and the patient waiting list. During the waiting period, we will see you in the clinic to assist with any medical issues that may arise. You may also have treatment using ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), a type of artificial lung, until a donor lung is available.
Medical advances allow us to transplant organs from Hepatitis C patients while preventing the recipient from getting the disease. This increases the organ donor pool, allowing us to safely transplant patients faster.
When a donor lung is ready, the transplant nurse coordinator will call you, and the transplant surgeon will examine the lung to ensure it is suitable.
Lung transplant surgery takes about eight hours. After surgery, you will recover in the ICU until you are healthy enough to move to a step-down unit in the hospital.
During this time, we will carefully monitor you to ensure that you aren't having side effects or complications. We will evaluate whether your body is accepting the new lung. Post-surgical monitoring includes:
- Lung X-rays
- Bronchoscopies – Imaging to evaluate your lungs and airways
- Biopsies – Removing small pieces of the lung for examination allows us to see any evidence of immune injury and treat it
The main complication is that your new lung may function poorly. Treatment may include lung ventilation and ECMO.
Life After Lung Transplant
To help prevent rejection of your new lung, you will take immunosuppressant medications for the rest of your life. Our transplant team will work with you before your discharge to make sure you feel comfortable and confident in caring for your new lung.
You will come to our outpatient clinic weekly for the first month after leaving the hospital for blood tests and exams to monitor your progress. After this initial period of intensive follow-up, we will determine a regular appointment schedule.
As part of your post-transplant care, we invite you to join our Heart and Lung Transplant Support Group. You can meet with doctors, nurses and other pre- and post-transplant patients to discuss the journey surrounding heart and lung transplantation.
The UM Transplant team is still seeing patients with urgent or emergent conditions. For all non-urgent medical concerns, virtual appointments are now available. We strongly encourage patients to schedule video and/or phone consults for appointments. Please contact us at 410-328-5408 to find out if telehealth is available for your next visit.