A heart transplant is an operation in which a failing, diseased heart is replaced with a healthier, donor heart. Heart transplant is a treatment that’s usually reserved for people who have tried medications or other surgeries, but their conditions haven’t sufficiently improved.
While a heart transplant is a major operation, your chance of survival is good, with appropriate follow-up care.
When faced with a decision about having a heart transplant, know what to expect of the heart transplant process, the surgery itself, potential risks and follow-up care.
Why it’s done
Heart transplants are performed when other treatments for heart problems haven’t worked, leading to heart failure. In adults, heart failure can be caused by several conditions, including:
In children, heart failure is most often caused by either a congenital heart defect or a cardiomyopathy.
Another organ transplant may be performed at the same time as a heart transplant (multiorgan transplant) in people with certain conditions at select medical centers. Multiorgan transplants include:
:This procedure may be an option for people with certain liver and heart conditions.
Factors that may affect your eligibility for a heart transplant
A heart transplant isn’t the right treatment for everyone. Certain factors may mean you’re not a good candidate for a heart transplant. While each case is considered individually by a transplant center, a heart transplant may not be appropriate if you:
Ventricular assist devices
For some people who can’t have a heart transplant, another option may be a ventricular assist device (VAD). A ventricular assist device is a mechanical pump implanted in your chest that helps pump blood from the lower chambers of your heart (ventricles) to the rest of your body.
VADs are commonly used as a temporary treatment for people waiting for a heart transplant. These devices are increasingly being used as a long-term treatment for people who have heart failure but aren’t eligible for a heart transplant. If a VAD doesn’t help your heart, doctors may sometimes consider a total artificial heart — a device that replaces the ventricles of your heart — as an alternative short-term treatment while you’re waiting for a heart transplant.