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If you have end-stage lung disease, a lung transplant may be your best option. During lung transplant surgery, the cardiothoracic surgeons at Penn Lung Transplant Program replace your diseased lungs with healthier donor lungs. Our fellowship-trained lung transplant surgeons have completed more than 1,400 transplant procedures, so you know you’re in good hands.

Lung Transplant Surgery: The Penn Medicine Difference

As one of the nation’s top lung transplant programs, we help a high volume of patients and have outcomes that exceed national averages. When you choose us for a lung transplant, you can rest assured that you’re getting the best possible surgical care. At Penn you’ll also find:

  • Exceptional treatment: Our pulmonology and lung surgery program is ranked the highest in the Philadelphia region and #13 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.
  • Unrivaled expertise: Our physicians have decades of experience. Many of them are recognized as global lung transplant experts, holding leadership positions in the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation. Meet the lung transplant team.
  • Multidisciplinary team: Lung transplant surgery is a team effort, and our team is among the nation’s best. Our experts include highly skilled lung transplant surgeons, pulmonologists, specialized anesthesiologists, intensive care physicians and nurse practitioners. They work together to provide you with focused care for the entirety of your surgery and recovery.
  • Dual-organ transplant capabilities: As part of the highly acclaimed Penn Transplant Institute, we are experts at dual-organ transplants. If necessary, you can receive a heart and lungs or liver and lungs at the same time.
  • Experience with complex and high-risk situations: Our surgeons have the skill and experience to perform lung transplants on even high-risk patients. Many patients come to us after other centers say they’re ineligible for lung transplant.
  • Comprehensive care: Lung transplantation is a journey with many steps. Our team is by your side the whole way, from evaluation to post-surgical care. We monitor your recovery through pulmonary therapy and follow-up visits, and personalize your care to your progress and needs.
  • Home away from home: You and your family or caregivers are welcome to stay at our Clyde F. Barker Penn Transplant House, a low-cost home away from home that’s just a few blocks from the hospital.

What to Expect During Lung Transplant Surgery

Two early stages in the lung transplant process are the lung transplant referral, consultation and evaluation and placement on the lung waiting list.

When we get the call that donor lungs are available for you, a Penn transplant pulmonologist and surgeon immediately go to the donor's hospital to check the lungs. At the same time, we call you to come to the hospital.

If our surgeon determines the lungs are suitable for transplantation, we prepare you for surgery. If not, you will leave the hospital without new lungs (called a “dry run”). Your position on the lung waiting list does not change if you have a dry run.

A single lung transplant surgery takes between three and four hours, and a double lung transplant can take six to eight hours. A dual-organ transplant such as heart-lung or liver-lung may take longer.

Penn’s transplant anesthesiologists administer general anesthesia to keep you sleeping and comfortable. During the procedure, your surgical team:

  1. Makes an incision across the middle of the chest or on the side, under the arm.
  2. Cuts off the airways and blood vessels to your diseased lung(s).
  3. Removes the diseased lung(s) and inserts the healthy donor lung(s).
  4. Connects your new lung(s) to your airway and blood vessels.
  5. Closes the incision with sutures or surgical staples.

Lung Transplant Surgery Risks

Any surgery comes with risks, including infection, bleeding and death. Additional risks associated with organ transplant include:

  • Rejection of the donor lung: Your immune system may recognize your donor lung as foreign and try to reject it. We give you powerful antirejection medications right after surgery, and you will take immunosuppressant medication for the rest of your life.
  • Primary graft dysfunction: Sometimes, even a well-matched donor lung does not function correctly following a transplant. This condition is the most common cause of death after a lung transplant.
  • Medication side effects: Immunosuppressant medication can cause kidney damage, increase your risk of developing certain cancers and decreases your ability to fight infection.

Your Penn physician will discuss thoroughly with you the potential risks of lung transplant surgery and create a personalized plan for managing them.

Compassionate Care Throughout the Lung Transplant Surgery Process

The post-surgical period is a crucial time in the lung transplant process. Your Penn care team is with you at every step. Throughout your hospital stay and beyond, we monitor your progress and needs closely.

After you leave the hospital, we see you regularly for several months for follow-up care and pulmonary therapy. You also have access to our lung transplant support groups, where you can connect with other patients and caregivers. Additionally, we offer extensive lung transplant support services to help you and your family throughout your journey.

Request an Appointment with a Lung Transplant Surgeon at Penn

Call 215-662-6200 to speak to one of our lung transplant surgeons about the transplantation procedure. You can also request an appointment using our online form.

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