Transplant Facts


The first heart transplant in Australia was performed at St. Vincent’s Hospital Darlinghurst on Mr. Peter Apthorpe on 23 February 1984.

This transplant is considered the first heart transplant fully sanctioned by the NSW Government and the medical fraternity. 

The Heart Transplant Clinic was established by the then Wran Government and St. Vincent’s was chosen to become the national centre for this procedure.

What are the facts and risks of a heart or lung transplant?

While heart transplant surgery is a life-saving treatment, it contains many risks. Cautious monitoring, treatment, and regular medical check-ups can prevent or help manage some of the risks involved.

The risks of having a heart transplant include:

  • Failure of the donor heart
  • Complications from medicines
  • Infection
  • Cancer
  • Problems that arise from not following a lifelong care plan after surgery

Failure of the donor Heart

Over time, the new heart may fail due to the same reasons that caused the original heart to fail. Failure of the donor heart also can occur if your body rejects the donor heart.

Patients who have a heart transplant that fails can be considered for another transplant that called a retransplant.

Rejection of the Donor Heart

Rejection of the donor heart could cause a serious problem for the recipient in the first year after transplant. The main reason of rejection is that, the recipient's immune system sees the new heart as a foreign object and attacks it.

During the first year, heart transplant patients have an average of one to three episodes of rejection. Rejection is most likely to occur within 6 months of the transplant surgery.


Complications from Medicines

Taking daily medicines that stop the immune system from attacking the new heart is crucial, even though the medicines have serious side effects.

Cyclosporine and other medicines can cause kidney damage. Kidney damage affects more than 25 percent of patients in the first year after transplant. 


When the immune system—the body's defence system—is suppressed, the risk of infection increases. Infection is a major cause of hospital admission for heart transplant patients. It also is a leading cause of death in the first year after transplant.


The most common malignancies are tumors of the skin and lips (patients at highest risk are older, male, and fair-skinned) and malignancies in the lymph system, such as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Other Complications

High blood pressure develops in more than 70% of heart transplant patients in the first year after transplant and in nearly 95 percent of patients within 5 years.

High levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood develop in more than 50% of heart transplant patients in the first year after transplant and in 84% of patients within 5 years.

Osteoporosis can develop or worsen in heart transplant patients.

Complications from Not Following a Lifelong Care Plan

Not following a lifelong care plan increases the risk of all heart transplant complications. Heart transplant patients are asked to closely follow their doctors' instructions and check their own health status throughout their lives.

Lifelong health care includes taking multiple medicines on a strict schedule, watching for signs and symptoms of complications, going to all medical check-ups, and making healthy lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking.