Risks

Complications associated with a lung transplant can sometimes be fatal. Major risks include rejection and infection.

Risk of rejection

Your immune system defends your body against foreign substances. Even with the best possible match between you and the donor, your immune system will try to attack and reject your new lung or lungs. The risk of rejection is highest soon after the lung transplant and is reduced over time.

Your drug regimen after transplant will include medications to suppress your immune system (immunosuppressant medications) in an effort to prevent organ rejection. You'll likely take these anti-rejection drugs for the rest of your life.

Side effects of anti-rejection drugs

Anti-rejection drugs may cause noticeable side effects, including:

  • Weight gain
  • Tremors
  • A rounder face
  • Acne
  • Facial hair
  • Stomach problems

Some anti-rejection medications can also increase your risk of developing new conditions or aggravating existing conditions, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Kidney damage
  • Osteoporosis
  • Cancer
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)

Risk of infection

The anti-rejection drugs suppress your immune system, making your body more vulnerable to infections, particularly in your lungs.

To help prevent infections, your doctor may recommend that you:

  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Brush your teeth and gums regularly
  • Protect your skin from scratches and sores
  • Avoid crowds and people who are ill
  • Receive appropriate vaccinations
Oct. 13, 2016
References
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  3. AskMayoExpert. Lung transplantation. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2015.
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  12. What every patient needs to know. United Network for Organ Sharing. http://www.transplantliving.org/community/patient-resources/publications/. Accessed May 18, 2016.
  13. Diet and exercise. United Network for Organ Sharing: Transplant living. http://www.transplantliving.org/after-the-transplant/staying-healthy/diet-and-exercise/. Accessed May 13, 2016.
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  15. What is pulmonary rehabilitation? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/pulreh. Accessed July 13, 2016.
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