The rehabilitation process begins after the lung transplant surgery is complete. After surgery, you will be taken to an intensive care unit (ICU) for recovery and monitoring. While you are in the ICU, you will have a breathing tube and mechanical ventilation. Patients are typically removed from the ventilator in 24 to 72 hours if there are no complications.
You may also have a nasogastric tube to remove stomach contents, chest tubes to drain blood and postsurgical fluids from the chest cavity, a Foley catheter to drain urine and intravenous (IV) catheters in your neck and arm for monitoring and providing necessary fluids and medications. An epidural catheter is usually used to manage pain. You will also be on immunosuppressive medication, which starts at the time of surgery.
After leaving the ICU, you will go to a hospital room as part of the lung transplant recovery process. The average stay in the hospital is generally 2 weeks. However, since complications can occur, some people are in the hospital for much longer - sometimes weeks or even months. An intense lung rehabilitation regimen will start as early as possible following your lung transplant procedure.
Outpatient Lung Transplant Recovery Care
During the first 90 days after you are discharged from the hospital, you will make frequent trips to St. Joseph’s for blood tests, breathing tests, X-rays and other monitoring of your condition. If you are doing well after 90 days, trips to St. Joseph’s may be less frequent.
You will also be instructed to self-monitor your weight, blood pressure, pulse, temperature, lung function and (if you are diabetic) blood sugar. Of primary importance is no smoking, limited use of alcohol and good nutrition.
As soon as you are cleared by your transplant physician, you will start a lung exercise rehabilitation program, usually one week after your are discharged.
For patients who do not live near St. Joseph's, prior arrangements need to be made to stay near the hospital for the first few months after surgery (a minimum of 3 months). Travel and lodging needs are determined prior to listing for transplant. Our social worker can help families with these arrangements.
Lung Transplant Recovery Requires You and Your Family’s Commitment
The lung transplant process requires the full commitment of you and your family (and/or support person) to:
Maintain optimism during the months or years you may be on the waiting list for a donor lung
Cooperate with your physicians, especially in taking transplant medications
Maintain a healthy lifestyle to make the most of your second chance at life
Learn More About The Lung Transplant Recovery Process At St. Joseph’s
For more information on the process of recovering after a lung transplant, please call 602.406.8000