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heart transplant is a procedure in which a surgeon removes a diseased heart and
replaces it with a donor heart. During a heart transplant, a mechanical pump
circulates blood through the body while the surgeon removes the diseased heart
and replaces it with a healthy heart from a recently deceased donor.
The surgeon connects the donor heart to the major blood vessels and hooks
the heart up to wires that temporarily control the heartbeat. The procedure
takes several hours.
To prevent the body from rejecting the donor
heart, your surgeon will give you powerful drugs (immunosuppressants)
immediately after surgery, and you must continue to take them.
After a heart transplant, the recovery
process is similar to the process after other heart surgeries.
You will spend about 1
to 2 weeks in the hospital after surgery. You may have to stay longer depending
on your health and if you have complications from surgery. While in the
hospital, you will start a cardiac rehabilitation program. And your doctors will check on your
heart to make sure your body isn't rejecting it.
A cardiac rehab program can help you recover from your surgery and be active again.
Your transplanted heart will respond to activity a little differently. Your heart rate will not increase like it used to. And you will have a higher resting heart rate. This is because some of the nerves that control your heart were cut during your surgery.
A heart transplant is an option when
the heart no longer works well enough and a person is at risk of dying. A heart
transplant may be considered when a person has severe heart disease and is
likely to benefit most from a donor heart. A person might be a candidate for a
transplant when any of these conditions are true:
At some centers, transplant candidates must demonstrate
that they have quit smoking and/or overusing alcohol for a period of time (such
as 4 to 6 months) before they are considered for placement on a transplant
In carefully selected people, a
heart transplant can be very successful. About 87 out of 100 people who have a heart transplant survive for at least one year. About 50 out of 100 survive 10 years.1
Most people can have a good quality of life after their transplant. They can be active, have a social life, and return to work.2
Risks from heart transplant include:
After a heart transplant, you must
follow a strict lifestyle involving daily medicines and regular medical care,
which includes regular sampling (biopsies) of the transplanted heart tissue to
check for rejection.
receive a donor heart according to the:
There are limited donor hearts available.
Complete the surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.
CitationsAcker MA, Jessup M (2012). Surgical management of heart failure. In RO Bonow et al., eds., Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine, 9th ed., vol. 1, pp. 601–616. Philadelphia: Saunders.Patel JK, Kobashigawa JA (2011). Heart transplantation. Circulation, 124(4): e132–e134.
September 12, 2012
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & Stephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology
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