A heart transplant is a procedure that removes an unhealthy, dysfunctional heart from an individual and replaces it with a healthy donor heart with a close tissue match.
What is it?
A heart transplant is a procedure that removes a weak and unhealthy heart and replaces it with a heart obtained from an organ donor. Individuals experiencing heart failure may be candidates for a heart transplant if they are healthy enough to survive the process and procedure.
What should I do to prepare?
To go on a waiting list for a donor heart, the doctor must decide that a heart transplant is the best treatment for a patient’s particular heart condition. If placed on the waiting list, a patient must undergo various blood tests to ensure that any heart they would receive is a close match to their body tissues. An individual can be placed on a waiting list for many months before a donor heart is found. Once a donor heart is obtained, individuals will have to refrain from eating of drinking 12 to 24 hours before the procedure. Discussing any medications that are currently being taken with your doctor is important. Individuals may need to avoid specific medications before surgery. Your doctor will inform you of medications that need to be taken in preparation for a transplant.
What happens during the process?
A cut in the ribcage is made to expose the chest cavity. An opening is then made in the membrane that covers the heart to gain access to the organ. The entirety of dysfunctional organ, apart from the back of the left atrium, can then be removed from the body. The donor heart can then be placed. It is trimmed to fit the space of the old heart. The chest cavity is then closed, and patients are given a series of medications including immuno-suppressors to prevent rejection of the new heart.
What are the risks and potential complications?
There are many risks associated with a heart transplant. As in the case of most surgeries, reaction to any anesthetics and excessive bleeding is a concern. Some individuals may experience breathing problems. Infections can occur post-surgery and can become dangerous. Individuals may experience blood clots, which increase the chance of heart attack, stroke, or lung problems. Kidney failure is also a concern following a heart transplant. The primary concern is a rejection of the donor heart. An individual’s immune system may reject the new heart and cause it to fail.
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