The Cleveland Clinic

Heart Disease: Heart Transplantation Treatment

  • What are the Risks Associated with Transplants?
  • Can a Person Lead a Normal Life after a Heart Transplant?
  • Is a Heart Transplant Covered by Insurance?
  • A heart transplant is the replacement of a person's diseased heart with a healthy donor's heart. The donor is a person who has died and whose family has agreed to donate their loved one's organs.

    In the three decades since the performance of the first human heart transplant in 1967, heart transplantation has changed from an experimental operation to an established treatment for advanced heart disease. Approximately 2,300 heart transplants are performed each year in the U. S.

    Why Are Heart Transplants Performed?

    A heart transplant procedure is considered when heart failure is so severe that it does not respond to all other therapies, but the person's health is otherwise good. The leading reasons why people receive heart transplants are because they have:

    It is important to note that there are many new innovations for the treatment of heart failure, from new medications to pacemakers and new surgical therapies. When determining your treatment options, it is important to be evaluated by a doctor who specializes in heart failure.

    Who Is Considered a Candidate for a Heart Transplant?

    People who have advanced (end stage) heart failure, but are otherwise healthy may be considered for a heart transplant.

    The following basic questions should be considered by you, your doctor, and your family to determine if heart transplantation is right for you.

    • Have all other therapies been tried or excluded?
    • Are you likely to die without the transplant?
    • Are you in generally good health other than the heart or heart and lung disease?
    • Can you adhere to the lifestyle changes, including complex drug treatments and frequent examinations, required after a transplant?

    If you answered no to any of the above questions, heart transplantation may not be for you. Also, if you have additional medical problems, such as other severe diseases, active infections, or severe obesity, you most likely will not be considered a candidate for transplant.

    What Is the Process for Getting a Heart Transplant?

    In order to get a heart transplant, you must first be placed on a transplant list. But, before you can be placed on the transplant list, you must go through a careful screening process. A team of heart doctors, nurses, social workers and bioethicists review your medical history, diagnostic test results, social history and psychological test results to see if you are able to survive the procedure and then comply with the continuous care needed to live a long healthy life.

    Once you are approved, you must wait for a donor to become available. This process can be long and stressful. A supportive network of family and friends is needed to help you through this time. The health care team will monitor you closely to keep your heart failure in control. The hospital must know where to contact you at all times should a heart become available.




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