Heart transplant surgery replaces a severely diseased or malformed heart with a new heart from a human organ donor. This procedure is considered for advanced heart failure after other treatments are no longer helpful.
Transplantation is a treatment, not a cure, for heart failure. Successful transplantation offers an average of 9 to 15 years of additional life.
There are multiple steps to the transplant process:
- Assessment: Our transplant team will assess whether you are a good candidate for heart transplant. This requires a series of medical tests.
- Listing and locating a match: Our transplant team will place you 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.
- Surgery: When a donor is located, our team will call you to the hospital for surgery. Heart transplantation is an open heart surgery that lasts four to six hours. During the surgery, a heart-lung bypass machine takes over the work of the heart and lungs.
The new heart is positioned in the chest and surgically attached to the major vessels. The new heart usually begins to beat on its own, and the heart-lung machine can be detached. Initial recovery after the transplant surgery takes 6 to 8 weeks.
- Life-long medications and follow up: Finally, you begin life with your new heart and medications. You must commit to taking daily medications called immunosuppressants to prevent rejection of the donor heart. You will also take other medications to protect from infections and complications.