Heart transplant may be an option for some people with end-stage heart failure. The heart transplant must be harvested from an organ donor who has died recently and is on life support. The donor must be a good genetic match in order to avoid organ rejection. The donor must also be a similar size and located within your region.
There are extensive criteria for becoming a candidate for heart transplant in addition to the severity of your disease. Ideal candidates are under 65 years of age, in good general health, have a healthy weight, do not have active infections such as hepatitis or HIV, and do not smoke or have a drug or alcohol addiction. Candidates must be mentally stable and committed to working toward recovery after the transplant. Preference is given to those with family members and community who will help support them during recovery.
What does it involve?
While you are on the waiting list for a heart transplant, follow all of your cardiologist’s instructions and do your best to stay in top condition. If a suitable donor heart becomes available, you will need to rush to the hospital immediately.
You will be under general anesthetic for heart transplant surgery.
When the donor heart arrives, the cardiac surgeon will open your chest. The surgeon makes a long incision down the chest, cuts the sternum in half, and spreads the rib cage apart. The heart is stopped, and blood is diverted through a cardiopulmonary bypass (heart-lung) machine which continues circulation. The surgeon will place the donor heart and attach it to your arteries. When the donor heart has been placed, the surgeon will start the new heart, and normal blood flow is restored. The surgeon will then close the chest.
After receiving a heart transplant, you will spend several days in the intensive care unit (ICU) so that your condition can be monitored regularly. You will spend between seven and 21 days in the hospital before going home after a heart transplant. You can return to work and normal activities after approximately three months of recovery at home. Your cardiologist may recommend cardiac rehabilitation after heart transplant.
Heart transplant extends the life of people who would otherwise die of heart failure. After a heart transplant, 80 percent of people are still alive after two years, and 70 percent are alive after five years. With rejection carefully controlled, heart transplant recipients can live longer than 10 years.
If you are approved as a candidate for heart transplant, you may have to wait several months before a donor heart becomes available. If you suffer a health setback, you may be removed from the waiting list until you have recovered.
Any surgery carries risks including blood clots, blood loss, infection, breathing problems, reactions to medication, heart attack or stroke during the surgery, and death. Transplant surgery
You will need to take immunosuppressants for the rest of your life to prevent your body from rejecting the heart transplant. This medication also causes many side effects including suppression of the immune system, raising your risk for contracting serious infections. Anti-rejection drugs also raise your cholesterol and risk for osteoporosis, cataracts, and cancer.
Some forms of heart disease can affect the transplanted heart.
You may need additional surgeries to keep your new heart working.
For more details about this treatment, visit:
What To Expect Before a Heart Transplant – National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Heart Transplant – John Hopkins Medicine
Heart transplant – MedlinePlus
Heart Transplant – American Heart Association
Patient's Guide to Heart Transplant Surgery – University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine