Preparing for Surgery

When your doctor or other health care provider sends you to the Transplant Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, they have selected a world-renowned hospital to help care for you. You will meet a team of expert, multidisciplinary specialists in diseases of the:

  • Heart (cardiology)
  • Lung (pulmonary)
  • Kidney (renal or nephrology)
  • Liver (hepatology or gastroenterology)
  • Pancreas (diabetes or endocrinology)

Feel free to ask questions from each staff member you meet.

A transplant coordinator will set up a series of appointments to help decide whether transplantation is the best option for your care. You may have to undergo some testing (blood tests, radiology or X-rays) and meetings with other specialists. Depending on the tests, the evaluation process may take several days to weeks.

Once you have met all of the team members and tests are completed, the team will offer you a plan for your care with your local physician. You may be placed on the list to wait for a deceased donor organ, or you may have a family member or other individual willing to offer their organs to help you. Your medical and surgical team will consider all of the available options, and you will continue to receive care from your local physician and specialists. The Mass General Transplant Center team will work with you and your care providers to provide excellent care.

On the Day of Surgery

When you come to the hospital for your transplant, you will experience several things:

  • Bloods for testing will be drawn
  • Intravenous lines (IV) may be placed
  • You may be given a laxative
  • Your skin will be prepped (cleaned)
  • You will not be allowed to eat or drink any food or fluids
  • You will see several doctors and/or nurses who will take medical information and perform a physical examination
  • Your records will be reviewed
  • You will receive further information about the transplant process and be asked to sign a consent form for surgery
  • A priest or minister can be called if you would like to see one
  • Your questions will be answered

After Your Surgery

After surgery, you will go either to the transplant unit or to an intensive care unit (ICU). Patients are carefully monitored in the immediate post-operative period. You will receive medicines for pain and stress if needed. While you are recovering, you will learn about your medicines—why you are taking them and what they do, how much to take and any possible side effects. We will review signs of rejection and infection.

Visiting times are limited in the ICUs and for a period of time after surgery. Family members are asked to keep their visits brief and will be required to follow strict hand-washing guidelines. Visitors may be asked to wear gowns, gloves or masks while in your room.

Moving around and daily activities start as soon after transplant as possible to help you to heal more quickly. Your nurses, and potentially a physical therapist, will be helping you to sit up and walk very soon, often within the first day after transplant. They will teach you how to sit up and move so that it is less painful. They may give you pain medication to help with movement. Walking will increase your endurance and helps to prevent infections.

It is common to have congestion in your lungs after surgery because of the anesthesia and breathing tube. Coughing, deep breathing and blowing into your spirometer (small machine with a mouthpiece and a ball in it) are important to help open up your lungs and to prevent infection.