What Is a Lung Transplant?

A lung transplant is a surgical procedure performed to remove one or both diseased lungs from a patient and replace it with a healthy one from another person. The majority of lungs that are transplanted come from deceased organ donors. This type of transplant is called a cadaveric transplant. Healthy, non-smoking adults who make a good match may be able to donate a part (a lobe) of one of their lungs. This type of transplant is called a living transplant. Individuals who donate a part of a lung can live healthy lives with the remaining lung tissue.

Anatomy of the lungs

The respiratory system is made up of the organs involved in the interchanges of gases, and consists of the:

  • Nose
  • Pharynx
  • Larynx
  • Trachea
  • Bronchi
  • Lungs

The upper respiratory tract includes the:

  • Nose
  • Nasal cavity
  • Ethmoidal air cells
  • Frontal sinuses
  • Maxillary sinus
  • Larynx
  • Trachea

The lower respiratory tract includes the lungs, bronchi, and alveoli.

What are the functions of the lungs?

The lungs take in oxygen, which cells need to live and carry out their normal functions. The lungs also get rid of carbon dioxide, a waste product of the body's cells.

The lungs are a pair of cone-shaped organs made up of spongy, pinkish-gray tissue. They take up most of the space in the chest, or the thorax (the part of the body between the base of the neck and diaphragm).

The lungs are enveloped in a membrane called the pleura.
The lungs are separated from each other by the mediastinum, an area that contains the following:

  • The heart and its large vessels
  • Trachea (windpipe)
  • Esophagus
  • Thymus
  • Lymph nodes

The right lung has three sections, called lobes. The left lung has two lobes. When you breathe, the air enters the body through the nose or the mouth. It then travels down the throat through the larynx (voice box) and trachea (windpipe) and goes into the lungs through tubes called main-stem bronchi.

One main-stem bronchus leads to the right lung and one to the left lung. In the lungs, the main-stem bronchi divide into smaller bronchi and then into even smaller tubes called bronchioles. Bronchioles end in tiny air sacs called alveoli.

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