What is a Heart Transplant



Overview

Heart transplants are done as a life-saving measure for end-stage heart failure.

Because donor hearts are in short supply, patients who need heart transplants go through a careful selection process. They must be sick enough to need a new heart, yet healthy enough to receive it.

After the surgery, most heart transplant patients can return to their normal levels of activity. However, less than 30 percent return to work for many different reasons.

What is heart transplant?

Simply, a heart transplant is surgery to remove a damaged or diseased heart and replace it with a healthy donor heart.

When a heart transplant is needed?

When the heart can no longer work efficiently and a person’s life is potentially at risk, a heart transplant may be needed.

When a transplant is required?

A heart transplant is required when;

  • A person has severe heart failure. In other words, when the heart is having trouble pumping enough blood around the body, and
  • has not responded to conventional treatments for heart failure

What happens before the transplant?

On the day a heart becomes available, you will probably be in hospital or you will be called to come in. Usually there will be two teams involved with you on the day. One will harvest the available heart and the other will perform the operation, sometimes the same team does both. You will be informed that a heart has become available by one of the doctors. From here things can happen very quickly. You will be changed into a gown and taken to the preoperative waiting area until the surgical team is ready for you.

During this waiting period you will have an interview with the anaesthetist who will ask you questions about your past medical history and then put you to sleep as this procedure is carried out under general anaesthesia. It is possible that you may already have had this interview at some point in which case you will quickly be put to sleep and the surgery begun.

What is the heart transplant process?

The heart transplant process starts when doctors refer a patient who has end-stage heart failure to a heart transplant centre.

Staff members at the centre assess whether the patient is eligible for the surgery. If the patient is eligible, he or she is placed on a waiting list for a donor heart.

After the transplant, the patient is started on a lifelong health care plan. The plan involves multiple medicines and frequent medical check-ups.