Life after a lung transplant: a balance of joy and challenges

J Clin Nurs. 2017 Nov;26(21-22):3543-3552. doi: 10.1111/jocn.13724. Epub 2017 Mar 22.


Aim and objective: To describe patients' experiences throughout the first four months post-lung transplant.

Background: Health professionals are familiar with the fact that patients' average survival after a lung transplant is about seven years and that 74% of these patients reject new organs within the first two years. By contrast, knowledge of these patients' perspectives after lung transplantation is scant.

Design/method: A qualitative study was conducted between May 2013-May 2014 in which 26 interviewees participated - four months post-transplant - based on a semistructured interview guide. The data were inductively analysed using a content thematic approach within a phenomenological and hermeneutic frame.

Results: The main findings in the study reveal that (1) having a lung transplant is an overwhelming experience, which for some patients includes (2) troubling physical and psychological challenges. The interviewees were happy to get another chance to live, although some of them suffered from medical side effects, postoperative complications and psychological problems. When asked about the future, interviewees stated that life could be described as (3) a balance of joy and challenges. They had received a new chance in life and were eager to fulfil their life hopes and dreams. At the same time, they were worried about the future. Having a lung transplant implies rules that have to be followed. What are the healthy choices they are supposed to make? And will there be a tomorrow?

Conclusions: Having a lung transplant is described as an overwhelming experience because of the improvement in the physical function of the body. Patients were grateful to family, friends and healthcare professionals for supporting them. The first four months post-transplantation were described as both physically and psychologically challenging. Interviewees were aware of the prognosis for patients following lung transplantation. They expressed feelings of worry and insecurity but still had hopes and dreams.

Relevance to clinical practice: The patients are troubled by both physical and psychological challenges after lung transplantation. Several areas call for interventions from healthcare professionals during the early post-transplant period.

Keywords: hermeneutic-phenomenological approach; lung transplantation; nursing; patient perspective.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Transplantation / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Postoperative Complications / psychology
  • Postoperative Period
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Life*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult