After surgery you will be taken to the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CICU) for three to four days. When you wake up, you will have a tube in your throat that helps you breathe but prevents you from being able to talk. The breathing tube will be removed within the first 24 hours, depending on your condition.
If the breathing tube is not removed in three to five days, you may have a tracheostomy (a hole cut in your neck for a breathing tube) placed temporarily while your lungs strengthen. Before the breathing tube is removed, your doctor will look down your airway again using special equipment. This procedure is called a bronchoscopy and it will be done in the CICU. You may need to have additional bronchoscopies and surgical procedures to complete the transplant process. Patients normally stay in the CICU for two to four days.
Some pain right after surgery is normal, and your nurse will give you medication to control it. Most patients have less pain two to three days after surgery. Getting out of bed and walking will help.
You’ll stay in the hospital as long as your doctors feel is necessary, usually about seven to 14 days.
After you leave the hospital, you will continue recovering at home. For the first eight weeks, you’ll have some limits on your everyday activities and should not lift anything over 10 pounds. During your recovery period, the transplant team will watch your progress closely. You must be available for clinic visits, lab tests, pulmonary function tests, chest X-rays, CT scans and bronchoscopies, which will help your doctor to see how well your new lung(s) is(are) working.
The transplant team will see you regularly after your transplant for blood work, testing and clinic visits; after three years, we will only need to see you twice a year. Patients who have problems may need to be seen more often.
Through the Houston Methodist My New Life program, you’ll also have access to seminars and other resources to help you stay healthy and enjoy life after your transplant. We’ve seen an overwhelmingly positive response to this program among our post-transplant patients—not just for the educational benefits, but also for the chance to meet other transplant patients as you continue your journey through this new life.
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