Symptoms and Signs of Heart and Lung Transplant

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 8/9/2021

Doctor's Notes on Heart and Lung Transplant

Patients who have heart or lung failure may require a life-saving heart or lung transplant. The most common reason for heart transplantation is severe end-stage heart failure, which occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood to the tissues in the body. The most common reason for lung transplantation is due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) such as emphysema. Other people are born with conditions that cause their lungs to fail.

Symptoms of heart failure include

  • shortness of breath,
  • nausea, and vomiting,
  • weight gain, confusion,
  • swelling of your arms and legs (edema),
  • severe fatigue, and
  • decreased urine.

Symptoms of lung disease include

  • shortness of breath,
  • coughing,
  • wheezing,
  • fatigue,
  • bluish discoloration of the skin and lips, and
  • in cystic fibrosis,
  • recurrent pneumonia and
  • excessive sputum production is common.

What Treatment is Done During a Heart and Lung Transplant?

It is much more common to perform either a lung transplant or a heart transplant by itself than it is to do a heart-lung transplant at the same time. 

These surgeries are done under general anesthesia. 

  • The chest cavity is opened and the patient is placed on a heart bypass machine so the rest of the body continues to get oxygen during the surgery
  • The diseased and damaged heart and/or lungs are removed
  • The donor heart and/or lungs are then placed into the recipient
  • Once the new organs are functioning adequately the patient is taken off the bypass machine and the chest is closed

Recovery time for transplant surgery can be long and complicated and patients receiving transplants usually need anti-rejection medications for the rest of their


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.