Heart transplantation is reserved for patients with advanced heart failure that has not responded to recommended medical and surgical heart failure therapies. Patients are carefully evaluated by a multidisciplinary team to ensure that the potential benefits of heart transplant outweigh the risks. Both invasive (heart biopsy) and non-invasive testing (echocardiograms, gene expression testing) is needed to fully evaluate the patient's health status and other medical conditions that may affect the success of the surgery and transplanted heart.
If heart transplantation is deemed the best option, the patient is added to the current waitlist maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing. The waiting time for a suitable donor varies for each individual and will be explained by the transplant cardiologist.
Once a suitable donor is identified, the patient is called to the hospital for surgery. The average hospital stay following transplant is approximately two weeks but may vary. Following the surgery, a team of specialists, including the surgeon, cardiologist, nurse specialist, physical therapist, dietician and social worker, prepare the patient for long-term post-transplant care.
Once discharged from the hospital, patients are seen frequently to watch for any signs of the heart being rejected by the body. Anti-rejection medications are adjusted, and aggravating conditions such as hypertension are monitored. Invasive and non-invasive testing are used to monitor for rejection.
Additionally, patients are referred to cardiac rehabilitation to help return them to an active physical lifestyle.
To learn more about what to expect before, during and after heart transplant, follow the links below.
For more information on the heart transplant program at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, call