The donated heart and lungs come from a deceased donor. After the donor heart and lungs are removed, preserved and packed for transport, they must be transplanted into the recipient within four to five hours. The recipient receives general anesthesia and is placed on a ventilator and bypass machine to oxygenate the blood while the transplant is being performed. After the recipient's heart and lungs are removed, the donor organs are prepared to fit and implantation begins.
Because the length of this surgery is different for every patient, families should talk with the surgeon about what to expect.
Postoperative care begins with a team of heath professionals within the hospital. Careful, comprehensive post-surgical monitoring constantly evaluates whether the body is accepting the new organ. In addition, the amount of time you spend in the recovery room, waking up and getting to the point that you're ready to go home, will vary from patient to patient. Because individual experience after recovery is so unique, it is important to discuss with your physician what to expect after surgery.
United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is committed to providing accurate and reliable information for transplant patients. The content on this page was originally created on August 1, 2003 by UNOS and last modified on October 10, 2003. The following sources were used as references:
National Library of Medicine, retrieved June 1, 2003.
Blood, Margaret S., MSN, RN, et al. Ed. Franki Chabalewski. "Nursing Care of the Heart Transplant Recipient." UNOS Donation and Transplantation Nursing Curriculum. 1996
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