ELi5: How are lung transplants performed? How is oxygen still pumped into the patient’s blood, when the lungs are literally removed from the body?


Modern medicine is incredible in so many ways. This is just a random question I was curious about. Can any surgeons or doctors explain the process, step by step? Thanks. 🙂

In: 5

It’s pretty complex, and I’m not a doctor, but we can basically divert your blood away from the heart and lungs, pump it externally, and oxygenate it externally.

It’s called a [cardio-pulminary bypass machine](https://www.verywellhealth.com/cardiopulmonary-bypass-machine-used-for-surgery-3157220)

There is a machine that the surgeon hooks up to the circulatory system that handles the function of the heart and lungs until they are done with the surgery. I got to assist the anesthesia doctor with running the machine it was awesome. Interviewing the patient before the surgery and getting to talk to him after was amazing.


I’m a perfusionist. I run that machine that pumps the blood around. I don’t know how much step by step you want, or what your knowledge base is on anatomy but I can help you understand and you can ask questions if you’re still unclear. The cardiopulmonary bypass machine is set up and primed (filled) with a water-like solution (we use normosol- it’s basically saline with other electrolytes) that we can use to debubble the tubing as much as possible. A cannula is connected to the aorta (arterial side) and a cannula is connected to the vena cava, which drains the blood passively to a reservoir. From the reservoir, it’s pumped through a centrifugal or roller pump to a membrane oxygenator, which exchanges gas like your lungs would do, and then pumped to the aortic cannula and out to the body. A solution called cardioplegia is used to keep the heart from beating, and the lungs are removed and replaced. Hope that gives you enough information, but ask away if you want to know more specifics.