Lung Transplant Surgery

Lung transplant surgery generally takes eight to 10 hours. It may take longer depending on whether you have had previous chest surgery and if you are receiving two lungs instead of one.

You’ll be asleep under general anesthesia during the surgery. The transplant surgeon will:

  • remove your diseased lung.
  • attach a donor lung(s).
  • close your chest cavity.

After surgery, you’ll recover in the cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU).

After Surgery

In the cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU), doctors and nurses will check on you frequently and run tests to monitor your progress. You will:

  • be on a ventilator for a day or longer to help you breathe.
  • have tubes in your chest that will drain fluids from around your lungs and heart.
  • take medication for pain relief.
  • begin taking immunosuppressant drugs to prevent your body from rejecting your new lung(s).

You will typically be transferred to a step-down unit within a week, where the care team will continue to monitor you closely. Our physical therapists and occupational therapists will work with you to make sure you maintain your strength and mobility during this time.

Most patients leave the hospital within two to three weeks of the surgery. You may go to a rehabilitation facility or the home setting, depending on your needs.

Lung Transplant Complications

The care team will watch you closely for complications and risks that may occur after a lung transplant, such as:

  • rejection of the donor lung(s),
  • primary graft failure (when the new lung does not function well following surgery),
  • medication side effects, and
  • infection.

Lung Transplant Survival Rates

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the one-year survival rate for single-lung transplants is almost 80 percent. The five-year survival rate is more than 50 percent. More information about our outcomes can be found at the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients.

Expert Care From Our Team

At U of U Health, our caring team of lung transplant providers knows what it’s like for patients dealing with advanced lung disease. We are here to provide empathy, support and hope. Our team includes:

  • pulmonary medicine doctors,
  • transplant surgeons,
  • transplant coordinators and other nurses,
  • pharmacists,
  • social workers,
  • registered dietitians,
  • financial specialists, and
  • pulmonary rehabilitation therapists.

Lung Transplant Recovery

You will need to stay in the Salt Lake City area for at least three months after your surgery so that the transplant team can monitor you closely and adjust your medication doses as needed. You will return to U of U Health for frequent clinic visits, biopsies, blood draws, and imaging tests.

After three months, your follow-up visits will become less frequent. If you return to your hometown pulmonologist or primary care physician at that time, we will continue to follow your lab test results and see you as needed in our clinic.

Most people who have a lung transplant will experience a much-improved quality of life. Your doctor and transplant coordinator will talk to you about when it is safe to resume your normal activities, such as work, exercise and participating in hobbies.

Find a Lung Transplant Doctor

Making an Appointment

To make an appointment with one of our transplant pulmonologists, call 801-585-3697 or 800-456-8341 or request an appointment online. Depending on your insurance plan, you may need a referral from your doctor. Before scheduling your appointment, our team will request medical records from your pulmonologist or your primary care physician to help plan your .

In addition, we offer “Before a Transplant: What to Expect,” an in-depth guide that can help you understand the transplant evaluation process. To receive a printed copy of the guide in the mail, please contact us

Hear From Our Patients

Health Insurance & Center of Excellence

Health insurance coverage, contracts, and payment may be subject to changes beyond the control of University of Utah Health. The University of Utah Transplant Department will contact your insurance and verify that your insurance is contracted with our facility and providers.

If your insurance is not contracted, we will attempt a single-case-agreement for transplant services to be performed at the University of Utah. Ultimately the patient is responsible for payment related to all services.

Please reach out to our transplant financial coordinators with any questions related to transplant finances: txfinancial@hsc.utah.edu.