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Advanced Lung Disease Transplant Services

Lung Transplantation Risks

Risks of the procedure

As with any surgery, complications may occur. Some complications from lung transplantation may include, but are not limited to, the following:

The new lung may be rejected. Rejection is a normal reaction of the body to a foreign object or tissue. When a new lung is transplanted into a recipient's body, the immune system reacts to what it perceives as a threat and attacks the new organ, not realizing that the transplanted lung is beneficial. To allow the transplanted organ to survive in a new body, medications must be taken to trick the immune system into accepting the transplant and not attacking it as a foreign object.
The medications used to prevent or treat rejection have side effects. The exact side effects will depend on the specific medications that are taken.

Contraindications for lung transplantation include, but are not limited to, the following:

There may be other risks depending upon your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your physician prior to the procedure.

What is done to prevent rejection?

To allow the transplanted lung(s) to survive in your body, you will be given medications for the rest of your life to fight rejection. Each person may react differently to medications, and each transplant team has preferences for different medications. The anti-rejection medications most commonly used include:

New anti-rejection medications are continually being approved. Physicians tailor medication regimes to meet the needs of each individual patient.

Usually several anti-rejection medications are given initially. The doses of these medications may change frequently, depending upon your response. Because anti-rejection medications affect the immune system, persons who receive a transplant will be at higher risk for infections. A balance must be maintained between preventing rejection and making you very susceptible to infection.

Some of the infections you will be especially susceptible to include oral yeast infection (thrush), herpes, and respiratory viruses. You should avoid contact with crowds and anyone who has an infection for the first few months after your surgery.

What are the signs of rejection?

The following are some of the most common symptoms of rejection. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

The symptoms of rejection may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Consult your transplant team with any concerns you have. Frequent visits to and contact with the transplant team are essential.

Long Term Outlook

Living with a transplant is a life-long process. Medications must be given that trick the immune system so it will not attack the transplanted organ. Other medications must be given to prevent side effects of the anti-rejection medications, such as infection.

Frequent visits to and contact with the transplant team are essential. Knowing the symptoms of organ rejection (and watching for them on a daily basis) is critical. Each patient will need to learn about anti-rejection medications (what they do and the signs of rejection), so he/she can eventually care for himself/herself independently.

Every person is unique and every transplant is different. Results continually improve as physicians and scientists learn more about how the body deals with transplanted organs and search for ways to improve transplantation.

Stanford Medicine Resources:

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