Humans are able to breathe in and out with the help of the respiratory system consisting of the airways and lungs. The importance of the respiratory system not only lies with the ability to gain oxygen from the air but also to eliminate waste products such as carbon dioxide into the air. This helps to maintain the acid-base balance of the body and to regulate blood pressure. There are diseases that can affect the respiratory system and sometimes it is so severe that it may have damaged the lungs terribly. In this case, lung transplantation may be offered to help a person regain the respiratory abilities. In this DoctorOnCall’s article, we will know bit more about lung transplantation. Stick around for tips for a healthy lung transplant recovery.
Lung transplantation is a surgical procedure of replacing partially or totally a diseased lung with lungs that is obtained from donors. There can be many reasons a person needs to have lung transplantation such as cystic fibrosis, end stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, idiopathic pulmonary hypertension, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, bronchiectasis and many other causes. Although lung transplantation may be the best solution for most lung diseases, there are some people who might not be able to proceed with this procedure that includes patients too sick to be undergone the surgery, have had cancers within the past 2 years, severe diseases of other organs, those continue to smoke, drinking alcohol or drug abuse and have lung disease that is likely to affect the new lung received. In Malaysia, most adults have to wait for 2 to 3 years or more before lung transplantation can be performed.
One thing for sure, when a person has already received the new lungs, they should be trying their best to maintain the new healthy lung. It would be a waste if a patient is not able to preserve the new functioning lungs and it may seem like those years of waiting for lung transplantation would just go down the drain if that happens. Here are 10 tips for a healthy lung transplant recovery:
1) Always be present for every scheduled appointment- The only time that a patient will be meeting a doctor is through a scheduled appointment. Patients need to attend all scheduled appointments so that doctors and other healthcare professionals can do what they need to do to ensure the patient is always in safe hands after the lung transplant procedure.
2) Take medications exactly as prescribed by the doctor- Do not use pre-transplant medication left unless instructed by doctors. Never take any other medications without letting your doctor know about it. Do not stop taking medications prescribed by doctors except after having discussion with the doctor.
3) Call your doctor if you experience symptoms- Symptoms such as fever, nausea, vomiting, sore throat, runny nose, pain or new tenderness around the chest of the transplanted lung, breathing difficulties or any discomfort should be addressed to your doctor. If you are unsure of signs or symptoms you are experiencing, do not ignore it and always call your doctor regarding the concern.
4) Follow all dietary plans- This includes dietary plans as recommended by your dietician, nutritionist or doctor. Avoid food that can interfere with your medication or could be potentially causing infection such as raw or undercooked eggs, raw seafood such as sushi, raw or undercooked meat or fish and unpasteurized milk and cheese.
5) Follow recommended exercise plan- Exercise can help improve the lung function and keep you healthy overall. 15 to 20 minutes of walking is recommended and the time can be gradually increased as tolerated. Do not resume with heavy weights or workout unless your doctor gave green lights to do so.
6) Do a daily pulmonary function test- This test helps the lungs work properly and help you get used to the new lung.
7) Consider wearing a medical alert bracelet- In case of emergency, knowing that you have had lung transplant, people around can be telling healthcare professionals that you need extra care and be prioritised.
8) Practise good hygiene- Wash hands regularly especially after touching objects. Keep surfaces around that you often touch or in contact with free from germs and viruses by cleaning or wiping it regularly with disinfectant.
9) Avoid being around sick people- Sick people can spread diseases or infections to you and as a person who just have had lung transplantation, you really would not want to deal with this. Wear a surgical mask especially when being in crowded areas.
10) Take your time to heal- Recovery takes time. You may be left with low energy for a while and it is okay to take more time to rest. Take a nap and pace your activities to avoid strain and stress during recovery. It can be tempting to return to the normal life you have had before but please talk with your doctor first before returning to work or when wanting to drive. You may be able to resume your daily life activities as before lung transplantation when your doctor has said it is okay to return to that.