What do you need to know about heart transplants?
A heart transplant is when a diseased heart is replaced by a healthy human heart, provided by a donor. Over the last 50 years, the success of cardiac surgery for the treatment of CHD has avoided or delayed the need for heart transplantation for many children and adults.
When might you need a transplant?
Transplantation may be considered if you have severe heart failure. If your condition is serious, and if other treatments are not improving or controlling your symptoms. However, you will first need to undertake a transplant assessment.
If you are considered suitable for a heart transplant, you will be added to a waiting list.
How long will you have to wait for a transplant?
Around 50% of people accepted onto the waiting list receive a transplant within three years. Unfortunately, suitable hearts do not become available for everyone. But 8 out of 10 people do now receive the heart transplant they need.
What happens during heart transplant surgery?
You will be given a general anaesthetic before the procedure begins and be connected to a heart-lung bypass machine.
During the surgery, the surgeon will cut across your breastbone to access your heart. They will then work on transplanting your new heart.
Once your new heart starts beating the heart-lung bypass machine will be switched off.
How long does heart transplantation surgery take?
Heart transplant surgery usually takes between four and six hours. After the operation, you will spend a short period in intensive care, and you’ll be monitored in the hospital until you are well enough to go home.
Most people leave hospital within about a month of the operation, but you may need to stay longer depending on your condition.
Living with a heart transplant
Heart transplantation has become a standard treatment for end-stage heart failure, with excellent survival rates. However, in the months following surgery, you will need to spend a lot of time going to and from the hospital. Your breastbone should be fully healed in about three to four months, and you should avoid activities that require pushing, pulling or heavy lifting until then.
The International Society of Heart and Lung Transplantation database shows excellent long-term survival for CHD patients after a transplant.