Overview of Heart Transplantation
A heart transplant replaces a severely diseased or malformed heart with a new heart from a human organ donor. This procedure is considered for late-stage heart failure after other treatment attempts have failed. Transplantation is a treatment, not a cure, for heart failure. When it is successful, it offers an average of 9 to 15 years of additional life. Patients considering transplantation should keep in mind that surgery is only one step in the process. There are several other steps in the process:
Assessment: If your healthcare provider thinks you are a candidate for a heart transplant, a transplant team will assess whether you are a good candidate. This requires a series of medical tests.
Locating a match: You are placed on the waiting list for a donor heart. Waiting times vary from days to months, depending on organ availability and your condition. Patients who become very ill while on the waiting list may require a ventricular assist device as a bridge to transplant.
Lifelong maintenance medication: You must commit to taking daily medication (immunosuppressants) to prevent rejection of the donor heart and other medications to protect from infections and complications.