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FAQ: Heart and Lung Transplant Print E-mail
Written by Jessica Smith   
Sunday, 18 October 2009

A heart and lung transplant is a surgical procedure in which a person's poorly functioning heart and lungs are replaced with those a person who has died and donated their organs.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?

A heart and lung transplant is a serious operation. It is reserved for those who will die without it. The procedure is expensive and risky, demanding that an individual undergo intense treatment for many years. Candidates for the operation are people who have serious diseases that involving both lungs and the heart.

Examples include:
# severe congenital heart disease, or heart defects present at birth
# severe high blood pressure in the lung arteries, known as pulmonary hypertension

To be considered for the operation, a person must be under age 45. Overall health must also be good. Finally, a person must be able to adhere to the schedule of complex medication treatments and frequent visits to the healthcare provider that will be needed after the transplant. The procedure cannot be done until a suitable organ donor is found.
How is the procedure performed?

The transplant is done with general anesthesia. This means that the person is put to sleep with medications and feels no pain. The person is put on a ventilator, or artificial breathing machine, during the surgery.

The chest area is first cleaned with antibacterial chemicals. Next, an incision is made into the chest. The heart and lungs are exposed. The person is then put on a heart-lung bypass machine. This involves special tubes to move blood around the heart and lungs. The blood is sent into a special machine to keep the blood circulating and full of oxygen.

The surgeon can then take out the person's heart and lungs. The replacement heart and lungs are put into the chest and sewn into place.

After the new heart and lungs are connected, the person is taken off the heart-lung bypass machine. Once the person's heart is working again to pump the blood, the surgeon checks for any bleeding. If everything is working properly, the chest incision is closed. The person is taken off anesthesia and sent to the surgery recovery room or surgical intensive care unit.


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