An irreversible, life-threatening lung disease that affects the heart (but are in otherwise good health)—An example of this is severe
pulmonary hypertension, an increase in blood pressure in the lung's blood vessels.
Had other treatments that have not been successful such as surgery and medications.
If you are planning to have a heart-lung transplant, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the procedure.
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
There is a shortage of donors, so you may be on a transplant list for some time. You may need to carry a cell phone with you at all times. This is to allow the transplant team to reach you if organs become available.
Your doctor will monitor your health to make sure that you are ready for the transplant. Before the surgery, your doctor will likely do the following:
Blood tests—to make sure your liver and kidneys are functioning normally
Identify your blood group
Leading up to the surgery:
Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure.
Do not take over-the-counter medication without checking with your doctor.
Arrange for a ride to and from the hospital.
Arrange for help at home after the surgery.
Eat a light meal the night before the surgery. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
will be used. It will block any pain and keep you asleep through the surgery. It is given through an IV in your hand or arm.
Description of the Procedure
After you are asleep, an incision will be made in the skin and breastbone. Your chest will be opened and you will be connected to a heart-lung machine. This machine takes over the functions of the heart and lungs during the surgery. The lungs and heart will be removed. The donor lungs will be attached. Then, the new heart will be sewn into place. Next, the blood vessels will be connected. The blood will start to flow and warm the heart.
The new heart may begin beating on its own, or the doctor may give you an electrical shock to get the heart started. You will be checked to make sure that there are no leaks and that the heart and lungs are working fine. After this, the heart-lung machine will be disconnected. Next, temporary tubes may be placed in the chest cavity to drain any blood that has collected. The breastbone will be wired together, and the chest will be closed.
Immediately After Procedure
You will be closely monitored in the intensive care unit (ICU) with the help of the following devices:
Pacing wires used to help control heart rate
Tubes connected to a machine that helps drain excess blood and air from the chest cavity
Breathing tube, until you can breathe on your own
How Long Will It Take?
How Much Will It Hurt?
You will have pain during the recovery process. You will be given pain medication.
Average Hospital Stay
This surgery is done in a hospital setting. The usual length of stay is 2 weeks. Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if you shows signs of rejecting the new organs or have other problems.
At the Hospital
While you are recovering at the hospital, you will need to:
Breathe deeply and cough 10-20 times every hour to help keep your lungs working well.
Take immunosuppressive drugs—You will likely need to take these for the rest of your life. These drugs reduce the chance that your body will reject the new heart.
Your doctor may need to take a
of your heart or lungs if you:
Have persistent fever
Have poor heart function
Do not feel well
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
Work with a physical therapist. Keep in mind that your new heart will respond slowly to increases in physical activity.
Be sure to follow your doctor's
The surgical site in your breastbone will heal in 4-6 weeks.
Call Your Doctor
It is important for you to monitor your recovery after you leave the hospital. Alert your doctor to any problems right away. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
Signs of infection, including fever and chills
Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the incision site
Cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, or severe nausea or vomiting
Increased sputum (phlegm) production
Coughing up blood
Waking up at night due to being short of breath
Sudden headache or feeling faint
Changes in weight or blood pressure
Chest pain or sensation of your heart fluttering, missing beats, or beating erratically
Pain, burning, urgency, frequency of urination, or persistent bleeding in the urine
Excessive tiredness or swelling of feet
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Surgical procedures for heart failure. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartFailure/TreatmentOptionsForHeartFailure/Devices-and-Surgical-Procedures-to-Treat-Heart-Failure_UCM_306354_Article.jsp#.WiBiEFWnFQI. Updated May 9, 2017. Accessed November 30, 2017.
Explore lung transplant. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/lungtxp. Updated December 9, 2016. Accessed November 30, 2017.
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.