After Lung Transplant

How should I recover after lung transplant surgery?
What should I eat after lung transplant surgery?
What medications will I need to take after a lung transplant?
How do I reduce my risk of further problems after a lung transplant? 
How do I start exercising again after a lung transplant?
Where can I go for ongoing support after a lung transplant?

How should I recover after lung transplant surgery?

After your lung transplant surgery, there are certain steps you’ll need to take to recover well, live a fulfilling life, and stay healthy and out of hospital. Following your lung transplant program is one of these steps.

Your lung transplant program is a detailed guide which includes taking daily medicines, maintaining an active lifestyle, having regular tests, going to transplant clinic appointments and attending your transplant rehabilitation program.

The St Vincent's Transplant Rehabilitation program brochure provides you with information about the program and how to enrol.

Your transplant team will give you personalised instructions on what’s involved in all of these steps, so you can feel confident you know exactly what needs to be done. 

To find out more about your heart transplant, you can watch a video from our transplant nurse consultant below.

What should I eat after lung transplant surgery?

Some of your lung transplant medications, such as prednisolone, can make it hard for you to maintain a healthy weight. Despite this, your diet is an important part of your lifestyle. Your diet can have a positive influence on your recovery and overall health.

When it comes to preparing food, you’ll need to be extra careful in the kitchen. Your medications suppress your immune system, and you may be more likely to experience food poisoning. So, always remember to handle and store food safely, and take care when eating out. Avoid high-risk foods, such as raw or undercooked seafood, poultry and eggs.

Below, you can learn tips from our transplant dietitian in our video about good nutrition following lung transplant surgery.

What medications will I need to take after a lung transplant?

After your lung transplant, you will need to take medicine for the rest of your life.

Your immune system views the tissue from your transplanted lung as ‘foreign’. As a result, your immune system tries to attack your new lung. Your medications will stop your immune system from fighting against your new lung. The medications are called immunosuppressants, or anti-rejection medications.

Below, you can watch a video from one of our doctors about lung transplant medicines.  

How do I reduce my risk of further problems after a lung transplant? 

The most important risks after your lung transplant are rejection and infections. Early detection, as well as understanding the signs and symptoms or rejection and infection, can save your life – so, it’s vital that you’re aware of how these signs and symptoms look and feel.

Rejection

Some of the symptoms your body may produce if you’re experiencing an episode of rejection include:

  • Feeling less tolerant to exercise
  • Feeling light headed or dizzy
  • Heart palpitations
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swollen ankles
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Weight gain.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, your transplant team will confirm a case of rejection by conducting a lung biopsy.

Infection

Because your medication suppresses your immune system, you could be at a higher risk than normal for infections like pneumonia, certain viruses such as cold and flu, and other types of infections.

Some of the common signs and symptoms of infection include:

  • Cough
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fatigue
  • Fevers
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Sore throat/runny nose.

If you have any of these symptoms, your transplant team can diagnose potential infection through blood tests, chest X-rays, CT scans, urine samples and other tests.

Your infection can be treated with oral and intravenous antibiotics, and other forms of medications – depending on the specific infection. Many of the steps you need to take to avoid infections are simple, everyday habits, like:

  • Covering any cuts and wounds
  • Keeping pets clean
  • Maintaining good dental hygiene
  • Maintaining good personal hygiene
  • Staying away from people who are sick – in particular, avoiding children with illnesses
  • Washing your hands.

Below, you can watch a video about infection and rejection after a lung transplant.

How do I start exercising again after a lung transplant?

There are many benefits to living an active, healthy lifestyle after your transplant. Exercise will help to reduce some of the side effects of the medications you’ll be taking – particularly the steroid medications.

Exercising also helps you to have a better quality of sleep and feel better overall. As you exercise more and more, you’ll notice improved strength, flexibility and coordination. That means simple activities like lifting and climbing stairs will become easier, and you’ll be able to do more without feeling tired or puffed. As a result, your quality of life will drastically improve.

After being discharged from hospital following a lung transplant, you’ll attend an exercise class two times a week for several weeks. In these classes, you’ll be given a personalised exercise program – and, you’ll be guided on appropriate exercises for your stage of recovery.

You will also be given an exercise program you can do at home. Your home exercise program will include simple exercises and movements that are low risk and designed to ease you back into exercise. 

Below, you can watch a video about exercising after a lung transplant.

Where can I go for ongoing support after a lung transplant?

After you leave hospital, your transplant team will be available for ongoing support as you recover. Your transplant rehab program includes group support with other patients like you who have experienced similar surgery. 

You can also contact the following organisations for support and advice:

A lung transplant can improve your quality of your life and, in many cases, save your life when all other procedures haven’t helped. By following your transplant program, taking care to prevent infections and monitoring your own health, you can continue to live a healthy, fulfilling life for many years to come.