Treatment & Care
Once you’ve been notified that a new pair of lungs has been found, things move very quickly. Our team will make sure that you and your family are comfortable and informed. It’s normal to be nervous, but you can rest assured that your child is in good hands with us.
What happens when we arrive at the hospital?
When you arrive at the hospital, you’ll go directly to the Transplant Unit, an inpatient unit designed for solid organ transplant patients. There, members of your the transplant team will perform a physical exam and run some tests to make sure your child is ready to go to the operating room.
While this preparation is going on, a surgical team will be transporting the donor lungs to Children’s. The time of your child’s operation is planned to match the team's arrival back to the hospital. Ideally, lungs will be transplanted within four to six hours of being outside the donor’s body.
What happens in the operating room?
Often, the anesthesiologist will allow you to take your child into the operating room and stay with him until he’s given anesthesia and falls asleep. His chest will be thoroughly washed with a special cleansing solution to minimize the possibility of infection.
The surgeon will make an incision across the middle of the chest, remove the diseased lungs, and place the new organ in its place. Then the surgeon will connect the main airway of the new lungs to your child’s main airway, and the main blood vessels of the new lungs to your child’s main blood vessels.
Sometimes a heart-lung machine is used to regulate blood flow and oxygen supply during the procedure. This is a machine that takes over for the heart, and pumps oxygen-rich blood to the body.
If your child is receiving a heart-lung transplant, the diseased heart and lung are removed, except for a small portion of the heart to which the new heart will be sewn. The new organs are transplanted as a whole system — the donor heart and lungs aren't separated from each other. The airways of the new lungs are attached to your child’s main airway, and the main blood vessel of the new heart is attached to your child’s main blood vessel.
How long will the transplant operation take?
The transplant operation may take anywhere from six to 12 hours, depending on your child’s situation.
What happens after surgery?
After the surgery, your child will go to the cardiac intensive care unit (CICU) to be monitored closely. After his condition is stable, your family is welcomed to visit. Read more about the CICU.
While your child is in the CICU, members of the transplant team will educate you and your family on all aspects of caring for your child after his operation. This will include information about medications, activity, follow-up, diet and any other specific instructions.
After the transplant, your child’s team will want to keep a close eye on him through follow-up visits to make sure that everything is going well. These visits might include:
- complete physical examination
- lung function tests
- chest x-ray
- blood work
- continued education for you and your child
- medication changes
These visits are essential to make sure your child’s medicine is at the right dosage, catch and treat any complications that might arise and make sure that your family and your child’s transplant team remain in touch. The frequency of visits will drop off over time, but your child will require life-long medication and contact with his transplant team.
How can I help keep my child safe after the transplant?
We understand that you will want to do everything possible to protect your child and his new lungs, and there are some steps you can take to minimize the risk of infection.
What’s the long-term outlook for my child?
Each child is different, so there's no way to know for sure. Lung transplant are becoming increasingly successful as researchers learn more about how the body deals with transplanted organs and search for ways to improve children’s quality of life both before and after a transplant.
Coping and support
We understand how disruptive and frightening a lung transplant can be - not only for your child, but for your whole family. From your first visit, you’ll work with a team of professionals who are committed to supporting you.
Patient education: Our nurses are on hand to walk you through the transplant process and help answer any questions you may have. They will also reach out to you by phone, continuing the care and support you received while at Children’s.
Parent to parent: Want to talk with someone whose child has had a lung transplant? We can often put you in touch with other families who can share their experience.
Faith-based support: If you and your family find yourself in need of spiritual support, we can connect you with the Children’s chaplaincy. Our program includes nearly a dozen clergy representing Episcopal, Jewish, Lutheran, Muslim, Roman Catholic, Unitarian and United Church of Christ traditions who will listen to you, pray with you and help you observe your own faith practices during your treatment experience.
Social work and mental health professionals: Our social workers and mental health clinicians have helped many other families in your situation. We can offer counseling and assistance with issues such as coping with your child’s diagnosis, stresses relating to coping with illness and dealing with financial difficulties.
On our For Patients and Families site, you can read all you need to know about:
- getting to Children’s
- navigating the hospital experience
- resources that are available for your family
|Our patient-centered approach means that we want your child to not only get better, but also feel good along the way. Throughout the hospital, you¹ll find clinicians trained in therapies that can make your child feel more comfortable, learn to shift focus away from pain and enjoy some peaceful moments during what may be an anxious time. Read more about how acupuncture, guided meditation, guided imagery, massage, Reiki and therapeutic touch could help your child.|
|Back to School program|
At age 11, Ronald (R.J.) Agostinelli was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells. He missed seven months of elementary school while having chemotherapy. Here, R.J. talks about what it was like returning to his class after a long absence.