Health A-Z

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How It's Done

An intravenous (IV) line is inserted into a vein in your arm to deliver fluids and medications, and you receive general anesthesia. Your surgeon inspects the donor heart and lungs to confirm that they look healthy and are suitable for transplantation. The surgeon then cuts a clamshell-shaped incision in your chest. A heart-lung machine pumps your blood during surgery. The surgical team removes your failing heart and lungs. The donor heart and lungs are positioned in your chest and sewn in place.

Your new lungs are inflated gently. Your new heart and lungs were cooled to preserve them before transplantation. As they warm up to room temperature, your new heart might begin to beat on its own. If not, the surgeon triggers your heart to start beating with an electric shock. Once it is clear that your new lungs are functioning well and all potential sources of bleeding are controlled, you are disconnected from the heart-lung machine. The team closes your chest, and you are taken to the cardiac surgical intensive care unit.

After several days in the intensive care unit, you will be moved to a private room. Your total hospital stay will be about two weeks.

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