Lung Transplant Process
Once a patient is identified as a potential lung transplant candidate, s/he will undergo four days of tests and consults performed at the UW Hospital and Clinics. The lung transplant team will then review and discuss the results of those tests and consults, and determine if the patient should be listed for lung transplant. They will also determine at that time whether the patient should be a single- or double-lung transplant recipient.
If it is determined that the patient is a transplant candidate and wishes to proceed, the patient will be placed on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) waiting list. UNOS is a nonprofit organization that matches organs to patients based on blood type, body size, need for single or double lung transplant, and severity of illness. This waiting period can vary from days to years based upon the individual's needs. While waiting, the patient will continue to see the transplant team approximately every three months and have updated testing done to monitor for changes in their lung function. Patients will also be required to attend pre-lung transplant education classes to help prepare for the post-transplant life.
The call for transplant can come any time of day or night. Patients will have transportation set up to assure a timely arrival for transplantation (usually within three hours of notification of organs). It is important to know that patients may get to the hospital, get prepared for surgery, and still not receive the transplant due to unexpected findings with poor donor organ function. The surgery can take from three to four hours for a single-lung transplant to six to 12 hours for a double-lung transplant. Hospital stay and recovery varies with the complexity of the disease being treated. After surgery, each patients will receive continued education to help prepare for the post-transplant lifestyle.
After surgery, transplantation is a lifelong commitment to follow-up medical care. There will need to be bronchoscopies and biopsies to determine rejection; laboratory work and X-rays to monitor drug levels and infections, and pulmonary function tests (spirometry) to monitor lung function. The follow-up schedule is based upon individual needs. The transplant team provides support to patients, families and local physicians with the goal of improved quality-of-life.