Lung transplant patients spend the first two to four post-surgical days in Columbia University Medical Center's sophisticated Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit (CTICU) located in the modern, new Milstein Pavilion. This special intensive care unit is staffed by critical care specialists who have expertise in monitoring patients recovering from lung and heart transplantation surgery. From there, lung transplant patients recuperate in a state-of-the-art transplant unit. The dedicated nurses in this 32-bed unit bring years of specialized training and experience to provide the very specific care required by lung transplant patients.
Most likely you will be placed on a ventilator, but will probably be taken off it within 24 hours post-surgery. Your post-operative pain will be managed by your transplant team in collaboration with the critical care anesthesiologist/pain management specialist.
You will begin your many (often between eight and ten) medications immediately following the surgery. Among them will be three immunosuppressants. Because your body is designed to identify "foreign invaders" and to reject them, these anti-rejection medications are mandatory for suppressing the body's natural immune response to the new lung(s). Unfortunately, the risk of rejection never goes away. For that reason, you will be taking immunosuppressants for the rest of your life.
In addition, you will begin taking antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral medications, which will be altered according to your culture results and clinical course. Vitamin and mineral supplements (e.g., calcium, magnesium, iron) will be prescribed to ensure your recovery from the transplant surgery.
A speech-language pathologist will evaluate your swallow function after surgery. If you have difficulty swallowing post-surgery, you will receive therapy during the acute care recovery period.
Lying in bed too long can drain your energy. As soon as you are transferred to the transplant unit, you will begin receiving physical and pulmonary therapy every day. While you are in the hospital, post-transplant coordinators will begin overseeing your follow-up care. Our in-house team will oversee your post-transplant care. They will answer any questions you may have, review your medications as well as discuss possible side effects and drug interactions, and once again prepare you for necessary lifestyle changes and follow-up regimens. In general, they continue to educate you and your family on the often complex post-transplantation process.
Keep Reading Our Transplant Guide
- Life After Transplantation
- Follow-Up Care
- Exercise Program
- Staying in Touch with Your Transplant Team
- See the full Lung Transplantation Patient Guide