Cardiac Transplant


Cardiac transplant is a surgery in which a donor heart from a recently deceased organ donor is implanted into a patient suffering from severe coronary artery disease or heart failure. This procedure replaces the patient’s own damaged or diseased heart with a healthy donor heart.

What is it?

Cardiac transplant is a surgical procedure that replaces a patient’s damaged heart with a healthy, donor heart. A patient may require a cardiac transplant if his or her ventricles have failed or if the blood flow to the heart is congested. The recipient’s damaged heart is removed, and the donor’s heart is put in its place.

What should I do to prepare?

Cardiac transplant surgery occurs when a donor organ becomes available, so patients should prepare as much as possible in the event that an organ becomes available. Patients can do this by keeping a phone or pager on and charged at all times, and by having a suitcase packed and ready to go immediately. It is important to have accessibility to personal information such as allergies and current medications so that the procedure is conducted as safely as possible.

What happens during the process?

It typically takes four hours to complete cardiac transplant surgery. The chest is opened, and the patient is connected to a heart-lung machine. The recipient’s damaged heart is removed from the chest, and the donor’s heart becomes the replacement. The new heart will typically start beating when blood flow is restored, but sometimes an electric shock is required.

What are the risks and potential complications?

There are many risks associated with a cardiac transplant surgery. One of the biggest risks is that the recipient’s body may reject the donor’s heart. This phenomenon happens when the recipient’s immune system detects the donor heart as a foreign object in the body. Avoidance of rejection requires immunosuppressant medications to treat, but symptoms can arise including shortness of breath, fever, weight gain, fatigue, and infrequent urination. There are some other possible risks associated with a cardiac transplant including arterial complications, reactions to anesthesia, and infection. These risks are less likely and are generally due to immunosuppressant medications that reduce the ability to fight infection.


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