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Alternative namesCardiac transplant; Transplant - heart
DefinitionHeart transplantation is a surgical procedure to remove a damaged or diseased heart and replace it with a healthy donor heart.
DescriptionHeart transplants are the fourth most common (corneas, kidneys and liver are the most common) transplant operations in the U.S. (over 2,200 cases per year). A healthy heart is obtained from a donor who has suffered brain death but remains on life-support. The healthy heart is transported in a special solution that preserves the organ.
While the patient is deep asleep and pain-free (general anesthesia), an incision is made through the breast bone (sternum). The patient's blood is re-routed through tubes to a heart-lung bypass machine to keep the blood oxygen-rich and circulating. The patient's diseased heart is removed and the donor heart is stitched in place.
IndicationsA heart transplant may be recommended for:
Heart failure caused by
RisksRisks for any anesthesia are:
Expectations after surgery
Heart transplant prolongs the life of a patient who otherwise would die. About 80% of heart transplants are alive two years after the operation. The main problem, as with other transplants, is graft rejection . If rejection can be controlled, then survival can be increased to over 10 years for a person who otherwise would have died.
Immunosuppressive drugs must be taken indefinitely. Relatively normal activities can resume as soon as the patient feels well enough and after consulting with his or her doctor. However, vigorous physical activities should be avoided.
Finding a donor can be difficult. In heart transplantation, the healthy heart must come from a fresh cadaver. This is different than a kidney transplant where a kidney can be donated by a family member. Also, timing is important because there is no good way to keep the transplanted heart alive for long periods of time before it is given to the recipient.
Recipients may be kept alive on artificial heart devices for increasingly longer periods of time. However, these can also have significant risks. While some of these devices are fully approved, others are still considered experimental.
ConvalescenceThe recovery period averages 6 weeks. Move legs often to reduce the risk of deep venous thrombosis . The sutures (stitches) or clips are removed about one week after surgery.
Update Date: 10/29/2003Jeffrey Everett, M.D., Department of Surgery, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT