At Loyola, 50 percent of our patients received a lung transplant 8 months after being placed on the national waiting list. We will continue to manage your condition until you receive your transplant. Learn more in our Frequently Asked Questions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Insurance, whether private, Medicare or Medicaid, will pay for your evaluation and surgery. Please contact your insurance for specific levels of coverage. Read more in our Frequently Asked Questions.
Talk to your doctor to see if a lung transplant is right for you. You can call our Pulmonary Transplant Clinic at (708) 327-5864 or (800) 424-6313, and a transplant nurse will answer your questions.
Although you may have been told you need a transplant, several tests must be done to evaluate your overall health, including how your heart, lungs and kidneys are functioning. After your tests are completed, a pulmonary transplant specialist will review your results and propose the best treatment for you.
Once patients are identified as potential lung transplant candidates, they undergo several days of tests and consults. The lung transplant team will then review and discuss the results to determine if the patient should be listed for lung transplant surgery. A medical team also will determine at that time whether the patient requires a single- or double-lung transplant surgery. The testing includes, but is not limited to:
- Blood tests: To give us information about your blood sugar and cholesterol levels as well as your kidney and liver function. Other tests will tell us if you have been exposed to certain viruses, including CMV (cytomegalovirus) and EBV (Epstein-Barr virus). Blood work also will be done to determine your blood type and the percentage of antibodies in your blood.
- A urine test: To evaluate kidney function and to determine whether alcohol and drugs are in your system.
- A chest X-ray: To determine the size of your lungs, extent of your lung disease and the presence of any chest abnormalities.
- A 6-minute walk: To measure the distance you are able to walk in 6 minutes and to evaluate your limitations.
- A pulmonary function test: To evaluate the function of your lungs by measuring how much air you can breathe in and out.
- A ventilation/perfusion scan (VQ): To measure the amount of air and blood flow to each lung.
- A CT scan of your chest, abdomen and pelvis: To evaluate for disease in your lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas, bowel or reproductive organs.
- A multigated acquisition or MUGA scan: To show how your heart is working by measuring the amount of blood that is pumped out of the ventricle with each contraction.
- A right-heart catheterization: To measure the blood pressures in your heart and lungs.
- A left-heart catheterization or coronary angiogram: To evaluate the blood vessels in your heart.
- A carotid Doppler study: If you have a history of carotid disease, diabetes, coronary artery disease, or if you are older than 50.
- A bone density test, or DEXA scan: To evaluate whether or not you have osteoporosis (bone mass loss).
- A colonoscopy: If you are 50 years old or older and have not had a recent colonoscopy to screen for malignancy.
- A mammogram: For all women 40 years old or older if not done in the last year to screen for malignancy.
- A Pap smear: For all women if not done in the last year to screen for malignancy.
- A dental exam is needed for all patients to rule out infection.
A person will not be denied for transplant based on age alone.
Once the decision has been made to transplant, your name will be placed on the national matching list called UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing). You can visit their Web site for research and educational articles on transplantation.
Waiting for a donor organ can be a stressful experience, especially because the amount of time you'll have to wait is unknown. Regardless, there are important steps transplant candidates can take to ensure they are ready for surgery when the important call comes.
- Take care of your health. Try to stay as healthy as possible and take your medicines as they are prescribed. Notify your transplant coordinator if any additional medicines are prescribed or altered or if you are hospitalized for any reason.
- Keep your scheduled appointments with your physicians. Until your transplant, you will need to meet with members of the transplant team to routinely evaluate your overall health.
- Participate in support groups. Ask your social worker about support groups and other resources, so you'll have access to more information and can talk with other transplant candidates.
- Follow the dietary and exercise guidelines. Weight management is very important while waiting for your transplant surgery. Our dietitians and physical therapists can work with you to plan and develop a diet and exercise program that will give you the greatest benefit before and after transplantation.
- Occupy yourself by staying involved. Spend time doing what you enjoy and stay as active as your physical condition will permit. Keep up with your work, studies and leisure activities, or start a project or hobby that can help distract you and make time pass more quickly.
- Maintain contact with family and friends. Good company will take your mind off of waiting and enrich your life.
- Just relax. Reading or listening to music or relaxation tapes can be helpful in taking your mind off your transplant surgery and avoiding negative thoughts.
- Make sure you are available. Your transplant team MUST know how to get in touch with you at all times. Pagers, cell phones or remote answering machines may be required. Your transplant coordinator may recommend that you stay within a certain geographic range.
- Be prepared with transportation. When you are placed on the organ waiting list, your first responsibility is to plan how to get to the Transplant Center as soon as you are notified that a match is available. Prepare yourself for this call by making the necessary arrangements for transportation well in advance.
- Be prepared by packing your bags in advance. You'll need to be ready to leave as soon as you get the call that a heart or heart and lung are available. Be sure to take your insurance information, an extra 24-hour supply of medication and all other necessities.
Periodic testing must be done while you are listed to monitor your health. During the waiting time, you are also responsible for immediately notifying the transplant team of changes regarding:
- Phone number
- Changes in medications
- Change in medical condition or hospital admissions
- Travel plans
When called in for transplant surgery, the nurse will give you instructions on when to come to the hospital and where to go.
The surgery can take from 3 to 4 hours for a single-lung transplant and 6 to 12 hours for a double-lung transplant. Surgical time can vary from patient to patient based on the complexity of the operation.
After surgery, you will need to time to recover. That's why we set visiting hours. Visiting hours for most hospital patients are from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
After surgery, you will be taken to the Intensive Care Unit where you will be closely monitored. You will remain on the ventilator for about 24 hours. You will have many tubes and drains in place, including several intravenous catheters (IV), a urinary catheter, a stomach drainage tube and chest tubes.
You will experience pain after your surgery. Your level of pain will be carefully monitored and controlled through medicine administered through your IV. When you start eating again, the pain medication will be given as pills or tablets.
When your medical condition has stabilized, you will be placed on a portable cardiac monitor. Your length of stay in the hospital will depend on how fast you recover. Most patients stay in the hospital for about 7 to 14 days. How long you must remain in the hospital can vary depending on the severity of your illness before the transplant surgery or complications after surgery. If you are very weak, you may need rehabilitation.
You will receive pain medicine through your IV. Once you are eating again, you will be switched to oral pain medicine. Be sure to let the nurses know if you are in pain so that the medication can be adjusted.
Your incision will be closed with small adhesive bandages called Steristrips. As your wound heals, these bandages will fall off.
Following your transplant surgery you will be on a breathing machine. The tube will be removed as soon as the doctor determines you are well enough to breathe on your own.
Our average length of stay following lung transplant surgery is 15 days, but this varies from patient to patient.
Following transplant surgery you will have several doctor appointments. Lung transplant requires periodic blood work, radiology testing, pulmonary function testing and bronchoscopy. Heart transplant also requires periodic blood work and radiology testing, as well as echocardiograms and endomyocardial biopsies. These tests monitor how you and your new organ or organs are functioning.
After transplant surgery, you will be required to take anti-rejection medications for life to prevent your body from rejecting the transplanted organ.
Before discharge from the hospital you will be instructed on your own personal exercise plan and those activities you should avoid while healing from surgery.
There are many restrictions that you must follow immediately after surgery while you are healing. You will also be instructed on restrictions that need to be followed to protect you and your new lung or lung and heart from infection and rejection.
The goal of transplant is to allow you to return to former activities, including work. It usually takes about 6 weeks to recover from surgery. Work clearance is given on an individual basis.
You will have several doctor appointments following discharge, including pulmonary, surgery and endocrine. You will receive a list of appointments before your discharge from the hospital.
You will be given a list of important phone numbers prior to discharge with instructions on whom and when to call.
Rehabilitation is required following transplant to increase strength and endurance. Rehabilitation may be done on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Your social worker will assist you in finding a facility close to your home.
Sometimes people need oxygen following surgery. You will be evaluated by respiratory therapists to see if you need oxygen before discharge.