A heart transplant is surgery in which a patient with a life-threatening heart problem receives a new, healthy heart from a person who has died.
In a heart transplant, the patient who receives the new heart (the recipient) is someone who has a 30 percent to 70 percent risk of dying within 1 year without a new heart
A heart transplant treats irreversible heart failure when other treatment options fail.heart transplants are performed for several types of cardiac illness, including:
- Severe coronary artery disease (about 42 percent of cases)
- Cardiomyopathy, an illness that damages the heart muscle (47 percent)
- Congenital heart disease (8 percent)
- Irreparably damaged heart valves (2 percent)
the typical heart transplant candidate usually fits the following profile:
- Is younger than 60, but likely to die within 1 year without a heart transplant
- Have no other potentially life-threatening medical problems except for heart disease. Problems that can disqualify a candidate include significant kidney disease, HIV, pneumonia or another active infection, cancer, a history of stroke or significant circulatory problems affecting the brain, and severe type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes.
- Is emotionally stable
- Is willing to follow the rigorous program of lifestyle changes and medication that is necessary after a heart transplant
How It Is Done
The surgeons removes your failing heart, then positions the donor heart in your chest and sutures (sews) it in place. Your new heart was cooled to preserve it before transplantation. As it warms up to room temperature, it might begin to beat on its own. If not, the surgeon may trigger your heart to start beating with an electric shock. Once your new heart pumps steadily without leaks, the surgical team disconnects you from the heart-lung machine and stitches your chest closed. You are then taken to the intensive care unit for monitoring.
After 2 or 3 days in the intensive care unit, you can move to a private room. You will continue to be monitored, and will get daily blood tests and echocardiograms until you are stable enough to go home. The total hospital stay is usually 10 to 14 days.
Before you leave the hospital, your doctor will prescribe several medications to help prevent infections and reduce the risk that your body will reject your new heart. You also receive a schedule for follow-up visits. You can expect to have an echocardiogram, blood tests and a heart biopsy (the removal of a piece of heart tissue) every 7 to 10 days during the first month after your transplantation, then every 14 days during the second month. If all goes well, you will need these tests monthly during months 3 through 6, then once every 3 months for the rest of your life.