Your journey at the Methodist J.C. Walter Jr. Transplant Center begins with a thorough evaluation performed by our caring experts. This will likely include blood and tissue tests (for compatibility matching), pulmonary function tests, a CT scan and other assessments. All these tests are needed to give us an accurate picture of the severity of your condition and your fitness for surgery.
There are more people waiting for a lung transplant than there are available organs. All patients accepted by a transplant program are put on a national computer wait list kept by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) to ensure that all patients in need of a transplant are given fair access to donor organs.
Rules have been made to determine how transplant candidates are ranked on the waiting list for each type of organ. These rules, called allocation policies, were developed by patients and transplant professionals to make sure that every patient on the waiting list has a fair and equal chance at receiving the best organ, at the best time for a particular patient’s condition.
Patients are prioritized on the wait list based on their lung allocation score (LAS). The LAS is a number scale ranging from 0 (less ill) to 100 (very ill). The higher the LAS, the closer you are to receiving a donor organ. The LAS is calculated using lab values, test results and disease diagnosis.
Once you are on the list, the wait for a donor organ will begin. From the time you are placed on the list, you need to be ready to receive a transplant. While you are waiting for a lung transplant, we offer education classes on the transplant process, which you and your caregivers are encouraged to attend, and you will be seen in the transplant clinic every two to three months.
It is very important that we always have your current address, phone number and insurance information. If you don’t yet have a primary care doctor, this is a good time to get one. Please contact us right away if your condition worsens or if you go to the hospital for any reason.
You may become so sick that medications and oxygen cannot keep you alive to wait for a lung transplant. If this happens, you may need to be placed on a ventilator, a machine that breathes for you when you cannot breathe on your own. A large tube is placed down your throat into your lungs. You will not be able to talk while this tube is in place. You do have the right to refuse to be placed on a ventilator, at which point you may die.
During the transplant surgery, you will be put under general anesthesia; you will not be awake or feel anything. You will also be placed on a machine to help you breathe. Your anesthesiologist will provide more details before surgery.
Once you are asleep, IV lines and a tube to drain your urine will be put into place. A tube will also be inserted through the nose into the stomach to drain stomach contents and prevent vomiting. The transplant surgeon will make a cut in your chest, where your own lung(s) will be removed and the new lung(s) will be placed.
During surgery you may be placed on a heart-lung machine that will let the blood get oxygen during the surgery. You will be in the operating room for about four to eight hours.
When the surgery is finished, tubes will be placed on both sides of your chest to let fluid and blood drain. It is normal to have some bleeding after surgery. These tubes are usually taken out after three to four days. The doctor may also look down your throat with special equipment to look at the airway. Special mechanical sleeves will be placed around your legs to keep the blood circulating so that clots can be prevented.