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Is Lung Transplant Painful?

Lung transplantation involves a culmination of procedures. You have the pre-operative steps, the actual process, and the post-operative recovery. The latter two are where the quotient of pain chimes comes into effect.

Is the procedure painful? Is the recovery after lung transplantation painful?

If you need to undergo an intensive surgical procedure like lung transplantation, questions like these will plague your mind. This blog explores the pain triggers throughout the surgical intervention and even during the recovery period.

How is the Lung Transplantation Done?

When you think about surgeries, the first idea that hits the mind is “being cut open”. As terrifying as it sounds, most surgeries, including lung transplantation, are a painless affair.

You won’t feel a thing during the procedure, primarily because you’d be under general anesthesia to ensure that you don’t feel any degree of pain. The only pain you might feel is when a tube is guided down your throat while preparing for the procedure. This ensures that you are breathing well during the surgery.

Once the anesthesia kicks in, that’s when the lung transplantation procedure starts. The surgeon makes a cut on the chest to excise and removes the diseased lungs from the patient’s body, and the healthy donor lungs are implanted in its place.

But that’s not all. Once the right and left donor lungs are implanted into the patient’s body, the surgeon has to connect the primary airways, blood vessels, etc., to ensure that the transplanted lungs perform optimally inside the patient’s body.

Although the process of lung transplantation initially started with a single lung transplant, the procedure that’s now widely done is a double lung transplant. Research and patient history suggest that a double lung transplant is not just more successful but also ensures a better life expectancy in the patient.

So, experiencing pain after a lung transplant is possible, especially when the anesthesia wears off. But the patient doesn’t experience any degree of pain during the surgery. What Are the Odds of Surviving a Lung Transplant?

Lung Transplant Recovery – Is It Painful?

Now that you have a fair idea about the possibility of minimal to no pain during the lung transplantation process, what about after the surgery?

A painful lung transplant can be averted with strong and effective general anesthesia. But what happens once a patient recuperates from the anesthesia and starts to regain consciousness?

This is where we, as doctors, have to think realistically. At Medanta, patients who work with Dr Arvind Kumar get a clear rundown of the procedure and what they can expect from it by the end.

And this includes a clear discussion about experiencing pain and looking into active pain management options.

Once the lung transplantation is over, the patient is wheeled into the recovery ICU room, where they receive strong pain medications to control the pain after the surgery. It is administered intravenously for quicker and better effects compared to oral analgesics.

The patient also remains connected to a mechanical ventilator, which helps them breathe and keeps them in good health throughout. The initial recovery in the hospital might prolong for 1-3 weeks, depending on how well the patient is adjusting to the new change in their body.

Managing lung transplant pain is reliant on pain medications right after you are wheeled out of the operating room. So, what generally starts with intravenous pain medications are then switched with oral pain medications to help battle the pain that often stems from the incision on the chest.

Chronic Pain after Lung Transplant

Another common and recurring issue that 5-10% of lung transplant patients struggle with is chronic pain after the surgery.

Since the patients are given intensive and consistent immunosuppressive treatment right after the lung transplantation procedure, gauging more details about postsurgical pain is quite challenging.

However, that’s where researchers chimed in to investigate the incidence of chronic pain following lung transplantation procedures.

In a study with 110 Danish lung transplant patients, around 5-10% of them reported experiencing moderate to severe post-surgical pain following their lung transplantation procedure.

Is the case of chronic pain after the surgery a recurring theme for every lung transplant recipient? The short answer is no. The complaints of chronic pain are very sparsely reported in some patients globally.

How to Manage Pain After Lung Transplant?

As we said in the beginning, a lung transplant is an extensive procedure that involves cutting open the chest to perform the transplantation. So, experiencing pain is an unfortunate consequence that most patients have to brave through at some point during their recovery journey.

That said, pain management after a lung transplant is also a part of the recovery process. This means you can discuss the best and most effective pain management option with your surgeon instead of writhing in pain.

While the initial days involve intravenous pain medications, the same is later switched to a lower dose of oral pain medication. This is for patient safety and to prevent risks of dependency on pain medicines.


We hope this answers one of the most commonly asked questions – Is lung transplant painful? To be fair, no surgical procedure is pain-free. There is some degree of pain and discomfort associated with every surgery you will undergo in your lifetime. But, the advancements in medical science now make it possible for surgeons to help their patients manage that pain more efficiently, as is the case with a lung transplant.

At Medanta, all of these questions are discussed with 100% clarity by Dr Arvind Kumar. As a patient, you have a transparent view of the procedure and the recovery. Establishing clear communication is what puts Medanta at the top of the list of leading lung transplantation centers in India.

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