As the only health system in Iowa offering lung transplants, UI Health Care provides world-class expertise to the entire region.
Our multidisciplinary team of experts collaborates to evaluate you in one comprehensive initial visit. They’ll decide quickly whether you’re eligible for a transplant.
Our patients tend to get donor lungs faster than those in areas with higher populations. And our thorough evaluation process means that the people we treat with lung transplants have better-than-average outcomes.
In fact, our one-year and three-year post-transplant survival rates are significantly higher than the national average.
We focus on providing you with the best possible care before, during, and after your transplant.
Our approach to lung transplant
From your evaluation for transplant through your ongoing follow-up care, UI Health Care specialists work together to care for you.
You’ll work with a transplant coordinator who’s with you every step of the way. And you’ll have multidisciplinary care team that includes:
- Transplant surgeons
- Social workers
- Financial coordinators
A transplant is a major procedure that affects every part of your life. Our team approach makes sure you and your family have all the support you need—before and after your transplant.
What to expect before, during, and after lung transplant
While we personalize every patient’s transplant process, it generally includes the following steps.
Evaluation for lung transplant
The decision to have a lung transplant is complicated, deeply personal, and involves input from many people.
Your transplant evaluation begins with a series of noninvasive tests, including:
The same day, you’ll meet with a pulmonologist who specializes in lung transplant. That meeting is one to two hours long and will cover:
Your health history
The transplant process
Life after transplant
You’ll talk through the risks and benefits of a transplant, and you’ll have the opportunity to ask all your questions. We encourage you to bring family members and friends who will support you during the transplant process.
If your tests show that your lung disease hasn’t progressed far enough for transplant, we will monitor you until you’re ready.
Getting approved for lung transplant
It’s important to know that you won’t get on the transplant list the day of your initial tests and meeting.
If your initial test results look good, you’ll need additional tests, including heart tests and cancer screenings.
If these further tests show that you’re physically eligible for transplant, you’ll meet with the other members of the care team.
Following these meetings, the lung transplant committee will discuss your case. They’ll consider:
Your overall physical and mental health
Your support systems of family and friends
Your ability to follow complicated post-transplant instructions
The committee considers, as a group, everything they’ve learned about you to determine whether you’re a good transplant candidate.
Waiting for transplant
If you’re approved for a transplant, you’ll be placed on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) waitlist.
Wait times for donor lungs vary widely, from months to years. You’ll be matched with a donor according to:
Length of time you’ve been on the waitlist
Your transplant surgery
When you’re matched with a donor, the most experienced lung transplant surgeons in Iowa will perform your procedure. Here’s what to expect:
You’ll get a call from a lung transplant coordinator. You’ll need to get to UI Hospitals & Clinics within four to five hours.
The procedure will take eight to 10 hours.
You’ll stay in the hospital for seven to 10 days so that you can recover and make sure your new lung is working well.
Immediately after your transplant, you’ll start taking medications to make sure your immune system doesn’t attack your new lung. You’ll take these immunosuppressant, or anti-rejection, medications for the rest of your life.
Before leaving the hospital, you’ll have a series of follow-up appointments. You’ll learn your new medication regimen, how to care for your surgical incisions, and how to recognize problems.
You’ll leave knowing how to contact the transplant team for help 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
We’ll see you frequently after your transplant. And we’ll continue to monitor and care for you for the rest of your life.
You’ll have your first follow-up appointment with your team a week after you go home from the hospital.
Then, you’ll be seen in the lung transplant clinic each week for the first three months after your transplant.
Follow-up tests will include a bronchoscopic biopsy to make sure your body isn’t rejecting your new lung.
After those first three months, you’ll see your team monthly for the first year, then every two months the second year.
You’ll continue to see your team regularly.
Who can benefit from lung transplant
Lung transplant may be able to help you if you have advanced lung disease, such as:
Connective tissue–related interstitial lung disease
If you're not eligible for transplant
If you’re not a good candidate for the UI Health Care lung transplant program, we’ll help you plan your next steps.
For example, we can connect you with other transplant programs that might be a fit.
We can also offer you alternatives that include:
Support for lung transplant patients
We help you cope with the emotional and everyday stressors that can come with advanced lung disease and lung transplant.
Lifelong education and support: From the beginning of the process until long after your transplant, there will be a lot to learn and remember. We provide educational materials, detailed instructions, and a record book to keep track of your vital signs and medications. And if you ever have any questions, we’re only a phone call away. We’ll provide you with contact information so you can reach our team anytime, day or night. We’re always here and ready to discuss any of your questions or concerns.
Financial counseling and help with insurance: Our program includes financial coordinators who will help you work with your health insurance provider. Insurance benefits related to lung transplant can be complex, and our experts can guide you through it.
Organ transplant support group: UI Health Care hosts a support group for organ transplant recipients and their loved ones. Meetings usually take place four times a year on Tuesday evenings at the Coralville Public Library. Email [email protected] for upcoming meeting dates.
Our Care Team
Joan Ricks, RN
Kelley McLaughlin, RN
Alicia Rock-Cleppe, RN, BSN
Abilgail Mack, Rn, MNHP