Steps towards a lung transplant

This outlines the entire lung transplant process

Key points

  • Your lung doctor will discuss your options with you and arrange any transplant tests
  • It may take a long time to match you to a suitable donor, and sometimes a donor cannot be found
  • A transplant is a major operation and complications can arise during and after surgery
  • After a transplant, you will need to take daily medicines for as long as the transplant continues to work

1. Discuss your options with a doctor 

Your lung doctor will be able to advise on whether a lung transplant is the right treatment for you. They will discuss the benefits and risks with you, along with possible alternative treatments.

Having a lung transplant is a big decision and every patient's case is unique. You will need to take daily medicines for as long as the lung transplant continues to work and there is a chance the transplant will fail. But if it does function, a transplant is the most effective treatment for lung failure.

Learn about the risks and benefits of a lung transplant

2. Referral to a transplant unit

Doctor and patient sitting and having a conversationClinical teams usually work closely with one preferred transplant unit, often the nearest one.

If you want to be referred to a specific transplant unit, then the advantages and disadvantages of this should be discussed with your lung doctor. Sometimes there can be differences in waiting times between transplant units.

Find information on waiting times for transplantation

Learn more about lung transplant centres in the UK

3. Tests to see if you’re suitable for a lung transplant

If your doctor thinks a lung transplant is a possible treatment, they will arrange for you to have a series of tests.

These are to find out whether your body can cope with the surgery and whether you have certain antibodies, which could make it more likely for your body to reject the transplant.

Find out what tests are needed

4. Waiting for a lung

This can be a lengthy process as it relies on matching you with a compatible donor.

To receive a lung from a deceased donor you will need to go on the national transplant list and wait to be matched with a suitable lung. If you are offered a lung, your transplant team will let you know of the risks from the donated organ.

Find answers to your donation questions


5. Being admitted to the transplant centre

If you and your transplant team decide to accept an offered lung, you will be asked to come to the transplant centre.

You’ll have tests to check the surgery can go ahead. Your surgeon will explain how the operation will be performed and discuss the risks and benefits. The lung will be checked to make sure it is suitable for transplantation.

Learn more about going in for a transplant

6. Having lung transplant surgery

A lung transplant is a major operation that lasts between 6-8 hours. Donor lungs are transplanted in the same place in your chest as your old lungs. Plastic tubes will be inserted into your neck and arms for administering fluids and medicines. You will also be given a catheter tube to remove urine from you bladder. These tubes will be taken out a later date.

Learn more about lung transplant surgery


7. After a lung transplant

You will need to stay in hospital for 2-3 weeks. Most transplanted lungs start working within hours of the operation. Your transplant team will monitor your progress and let you know when you can go home.

You will need follow-up appointments at the hospital, and extra support can be arranged at home, if needed. You will also need to take daily medicines to prevent rejection.

Learn about living with a lung transplant


More information

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