A heart transplant is a surgical procedure where a failing or diseased heart is replaced with a healthier heart. This treatment is usually recommended to patients whose conditions have failed to show any improvement even after medications and other surgeries. In most cases, a brain-dead patient is considered as a donor for a heart transplant.
Before a heart transplant, an assessment will be done for checking whether you are suitable for a heart transplant. You would be then put in the waiting list, where you have to wait till the time you get a suitable donor. It may take a few days to get a donor, but in some cases it may even take months or years.
A patient may need a heart transplant in the following conditions:
The pre-procedure guidelines before undergoing a heart transplant are:
Heart transplant surgery is basically an open heart surgery that may take several hours. General anaesthesia will be administered in this procedure. You will be connected with a heart-lung bypass machine to ensure there is proper blood flow during the whole operation. The surgeon first makes an incision in the chest, and opens the rib cage to get access to your heart. The diseased heart is then removed and the donor heart will be placed in its place. The surgeon will then attach the major blood vessels to the donor heart. Once the blood flow gets restored, the heart starts beating again. In some cases, an electric shock needs to be given for the heart to start beating properly.
Post surgery, you will be shifted to the ICU where you have to stay for a few days. During this time, you will be closely monitored by the doctors to see how the donor heart is functioning, or watch out for any symptoms of rejection like fever, fatigue, shortness of breath, etc. You will be given medications for your pain. There would also be drainage tubes fitted so that the excess fluid can be removed from the chest cavity. Generally, you will have to spend 1-2 weeks at the hospital, although it depends on your rate of recovery.
There will be several follow-up tests and appointments with the doctor in the initial months. In the first few months after a heart transplant, you will also have to undergo biopsy test at regular intervals so that the doctor can analyse if your body is rejecting the donor heart or not.
Risk & Complication
The possible risks or complications of a heart transplant may include:
There will be several adjustments that you will need to make in your lifestyle after a heart transplant. There will be some medicines that you have to take for the rest of your life, which may make you more vulnerable to infection and develop health conditions like high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes. Gradually, the dosage might decrease depending on your condition. Ensure that all the medications are taken regularly. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and avoiding tobacco products are the basic changes that needs to be made in your daily life. Your doctor may also suggest a cardiac rehabilitation programme for you, involving exercising and diet guidelines to recover better after a transplant.
The cost of a heart transplant would be approximately Rs. 15 lakhs – Rs. 20 lakhs.