Heart Transplantation

Why is the doctor performing this surgery?

To remove a severely diseased or malformed heart that is failing, and replace it with a new heart from a human organ donor.

What is the surgery?

Heart Transplant may be the only option for patients who have failed all other attempts at medical and/or surgical therapy for heart disease, specifically late-stage heart failure patients.

Heart Transplant surgery is available only to those healthy enough otherwise to undergo such a major surgery. It is open-heart surgery, and requires that the pumping and oxygenation function of the heart be taken over by a heart-lung machine during the surgery. Time is extremely critical in heart transplant: the donor heart will survive only 4-6 hours from the time of donor death to the time of transplant into the recipient. Donor shortage is an ongoing roadblock to Heart Transplantation.

During surgery, the new heart is positioned correctly, and the major vessels are surgically reattached. As the patient is taken off the heart-lung machine, and oxygenated blood starts to circulate to and thru the new heart, it usually begins to beat on its own. If it doesn't begin beating on its own, defibrillation (electric shock to the heart) may be necessary.

Post-operatively, prevention of rejection and/or infection is paramount.

Where is the surgery performed?

In the Operating Room (OR), under general anesthesia.

How long does this surgery take?

Heart Transplant can take 4 - 6 hours. It is scheduled when a donor heart becomes available.