Lung transplant: The transplant hospital stay

The following timeline is representative of the typical lung recipient; no patient will have exactly the same experiences.

Day of surgeryIllustration of lung transplant procedure

  • You will be admitted directly to the Transplant Unit
  • Blood samples will be obtained
  • A chest x-ray and EKG will be obtained


  • You will go to surgery within hours of being admitted
  • Usually lasts 8-10 hours

First post-operative day

  • You will be transferred to the Surgical Intensive Care Unit for a day or two for close monitoring.
  • Initially, you will have a tube in your windpipe to help you breathe. All patients have chest tubes to drain fluid from around their lungs.
  • You will have several tubes.
  • You will be given pain medications to help control your pain.
  • You will not be eating or drinking until your bowel wakes up from the anesthesia, although you will begin taking pills with a few sips of water.
  • You will have IVs to deliver medications.
  • You will have a Foley catheter placed in your bladder to drain your urine. This catheter usually remains in place for at least two days.
  • You will be assisted in taking your first walk within 12 hours after surgery, and will be expected to increase your amount of activity every day to prevent complications such as pneumonia and blood clots.
  • You will be taught to use an incentive spirometer to inflate your new lung(s), and you will need to cough and deep breathe to prevent pneumonia.

Second post-operative day to discharge

  • You will probably begin drinking clear liquids at mealtimes by post-op day 2, and may even be eating solid food if it is tolerated.
  • You will be walking four times a day and learning about your new medications.
  • The average length of stay in the hospital following a lung transplant is 7-10 days.
  • Before leaving the hospital, each patient will have a series of follow-up appointments arranged by their coordinator. All patients will have learned their new medication program, be knowledgeable about the signs and symptoms of problems, know how to care for their incisions, and know how to contact the team for assistance 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • All patients are seen in the lung transplant clinic weekly after the transplant for the first three months.
Last reviewed: 
January 2018

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