Heart transplantation is the most advanced treatment for end-stage heart disease, the final phase of the disease when there is no effective medical or surgical treatment.
Your heart specialist may ask that you be evaluated for a heart transplant if he or she believes that your heart disease is so advanced that there are no other treatment options and that you would be a good candidate for this surgery.
A number of different conditions can damage your heart to the point where other treatments are unsuccessful and a transplant is the best chance for cure. These include:
Other conditions may exclude a patient from consideration for a transplant, such as irreversible pulmonary hypertension, cancer, HIV, active drug or alcohol addiction, acute mental incompetence and severe muscle loss due to malnutrition, called cardiac cachexia. A number of other conditions are evaluated on an individual basis to determine transplant suitability.
Heart transplant surgery involves removing most of your diseased heart and inserting one from a person who has died. You will be called to come to the hospital immediately once you have been assigned a donor heart. Upon arrival, you will go the Coronary Care Unit for a physical exam and more tests, including blood and urine samples.
You will be prepared for surgery, which includes the insertion of intravenous lines and a catheter in your neck to measure the pressure in your heart.
After your surgery, you will wake up in a special sterile room to ensure that you aren't exposed to infection. Staff and visitors must take measures to make sure that they do not bring in bacteria and infections by scrubbing their hands and wearing protective masks and gowns.
Once you are able to breathe on your own, the ventilator will be removed. However, you will continue to be hooked up to various monitors and catheters for a while. When you are stronger, you may be moved to a more general hospital room.
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.