Heart Transplant Surgery: Procedure, Life Expectancy, and More

The candidates for a heart transplant are those who experience a heart disease or heart failure as a result of various causes, including:

Even if you have any such conditions, There are many other factors in determining your candidacy. The following will be taken into consideration as well: (1)

  • Your age. Most potential patients are expected to be less than 65 years of age.
  • Your overall health. Multiple organ failure, cancer and other serious medical problems can remove you from a transplant list.
  • Your attitude. You should make a commitment to change your lifestyle. This includes exercise, healthy food and stopping smoking if you smoke.

If you are committed to being a perfect candidate for a heart transplant, You will be placed on a waiting list until a donor matching your type of blood and tissue is available.

The number of donor hearts available in the US is estimated at 2,000 per year. Yet about 3,000 people are on the waiting list for heart transplantation at any given time, as determined by the University of Michigan. When a heart is available for you, surgery is done at the earliest possible time while the organ is still viable. That’s normally within four hours. (2)

What’s the procedure?

The heart transplant takes approximately 4 hours. During this time, you will be placed on a heart-lung machine to keep the blood flowing all over your body.

Your surgeon will carry your heart away, leaving the openings of the pulmonary veins and the posterior wall of the left atrium untouched. They will do so to get you ready to receive the new heart.

Once your physician has put the donor’s heart back together and the heart begins to beat, you will be removed from the heart lung device. In most cases, the new transplant heart will start beating as soon as the blood flow comes back. At times, an electric shock is necessary to trigger a heartbeat.

What’s recovery like?

Once you have completed your surgery, you will be taken to the ICU. You will be constantly monitored, given painkillers and draining tubes to remove excess fluid from the chest cavity.

After the first day or 2 after the surgical operation, you will most likely be moved out of the intensive care unit. But you will stay in the hospital while you continue to heal. Hospital stays vary from 1 to 3 weeks, depending on your level of individual recovery.

You will be checked for infection, and your drug treatment will start. Antirejection medications are essential to make sure your body does not reject your donor organ. You could be directed to a cardiac rehabilitation unit or centre to help you adapt to your new life as a transplant recipient.

Healing a heart transplant may be a lengthy process. For a lot of people, a complete recovery can last up to 6 months.

Follow-up after the surgery

Regular follow-up appointments are essential for the long-term recovery and managing a cardiac transplant. Your medical staff will conduct blood tests, heart biopsy by catheterization, and echocardiograms on a monthly basis during the first year following surgery to make sure your new heart works properly.

Your immunosuppressive medications will be adjusted when necessary. You will also be asked if you have seen any possible signs of rejection, such as:

  • fatigue
  • fever
  • shortness of breath
  • weight gain because of fluid retention
  • reduction in urinary output

Notify your heart team of any changes in your condition so that your cardiac function may be monitored as needed. After one year of the transplant, your need for regular monitoring will decrease, but you will still need annual medical testing.

If you are a woman who wants to start a family, speak to your cardiologist. Pregnancy is no danger to people who have had a heart transplant. However, pregnant women with pre-existing heart disease or who have undergone transplantation are considered to be at high risk. They may be at higher risk for complications related to pregnancy and higher risk for organ rejection.

What’s the outlook?

Getting a new heart can significantly improve your quality of life, but you need to take good care after it. In addition to taking daily anti-rejection medicines, You will need to follow a diet and lifestyle in good heart health as prescribed by your physician. It includes not to smoke and exercise regularly if you can.

The survival rates of heart transplant patients vary depending on their general state of health, but the averages continue to be high. Rejection is the major cause of shorter life expectancy. The Mayo Clinic estimates the total survival rate in the U.S. at approximately 88% after one year and 75% after five years.

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