Waiting for a Lung Transplant

Step Three: How to Prepare for a Lung Transplant

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After you have completed your evaluation, received a recommendation from your transplant committee, and met all other requirements -- such as attending smoking cessation sessions and meeting pulmonary physical therapy goals -- your name will be placed on the national transplant waitlist. We know that this process can be stressful, and we provide you and your loved ones with the resources and assistance you need to succeed.

Ready for an Evaluation?

If you are interested in making an appointment for an evaluation, please ask your pulmonologist to submit a referral.

The Donor Lung Waitlist Process

Once your name is placed on the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) national lung recipient database, you are eligible to be matched to a donor. When a donor is identified, UNOS will offer it sequentially to those eligible for the organ, based on blood type, distance from the donor hospital, and lung allocation score (LAS), which ranks recipients based on their current medical need for donor lungs and their prognosis after transplant. Once you have been matched to a donor, our surgeons will do a detailed evaluation of the donor, the health of the lungs, and specifics of your medical needs to decide if the donor lungs are right for you.

Clinical Trials at Duke

Our doctors are leaders in transplantation research, which gives you access to best practices and new therapies through our lung transplant programs and clinical research.

Staying Healthy

Exercise and Transplant Education

When you become a lung transplant candidate, you will spend several weeks participating in pre-transplant physical therapy three to five days a week. You and your caregiver will also attend transplant education classes about the lung transplant process, the medications you will take, and the recovery process. Before surgery, you should meet the physical (walking and biking) requirements and educational goals outlined by your transplant team. If you live outside our area, we can help you relocate to Durham so you can prepare for surgery.

Smoking Cessation

We require you to be nicotine-free for at least six months before transplant. If you use tobacco products, you must quit, complete a relapse prevention program, and remain completely nicotine-free after transplant. Smoking and the use of nicotine can decrease your resistance to infection, interfere with the healing process, and contribute to blood clots. We provide assistance and resources to help you give up tobacco for good.

Best Hospital for Pulmonology and Lung Surgery in NC

Where you receive your care matters. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our pulmonology and lung surgery program is nationally ranked, and the highest-ranked program in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2023–2024.

Caregiver Support

When you have a lung transplant at Duke, you are required to choose a primary caregiver who will support you throughout the transplantation process. They will:

  • Attend appointments and education sessions
  • Drive you to and from appointments, physical therapy, and surgery
  • Manage your medications after surgery
  • Provide personal care support (bathing, cooking, and chores)

Caregivers should be non-smokers in good health who are willing to provide 24-hour care for you before and right after the surgery. We consider your caregiver an essential part of your health care team and provide them with the education and support services they need to keep you healthy before and after your transplant surgery.

Be Prepared for the Call

The wait time for a lung transplant varies from person to person. At Duke, the average time spent on the waitlist is about two weeks, but you and your caregiver need to always be prepared to receive a call that donor lungs have been matched to you. Once you are notified, you must arrive at the hospital within two hours. Most lung transplant patients relocate to the Durham area so they can be available. Your transplant coordinator can connect you with resources to help you make lodging arrangements if needed.


Step 4: Transplant Surgery

This page was medically reviewed on 12/05/2022 by