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Heart Transplant: Procedure, Recovery, Cost, Risk & Complication

What is Heart Transplant?

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.

Indication

A patient may need a heart transplant in the following conditions:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Cardiomyopathy, a condition where your heart muscles get weakened
  • Heart valve disease
  • Congenital heart defect (problem in the structure of the heart from birth)
  • Abnormal rhythms of the heart that keep recurring and cannot be controlled by medications
  • Amyloidosis (deposit of abnormal proteins in organs and body tissues)
  • A previous heart transplant that has failed

What Procedure is followed :

Pre Procedure

The pre-procedure guidelines before undergoing a heart transplant are:

  • First and foremost, you will be evaluated to check for certain conditions like if you are healthy enough for undergoing the surgery and the lifelong medications that you need to take post-surgery.
  • While you will be put on the waiting list for a suitable heart donor, make sure that you are nearby as you can get a call any moment. You will be informed once the donor heart is available and you need to come to the hospital immediately.
  • Timing is an important factor here as the donor heart can survive only for 4-6 hours after taken out from the body.
  • Once you arrive at the hospital, you will be administered the pre-operative medicines and prepared for the surgery. The chest area will be shaved, and rubbed with an antiseptic lotion. The IV line will be started, for administering the anaesthesia.

During Procedure

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 Procedure

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:

  • Bleeding or infection from the incision site
  • Formation of blood clots
  • A sudden stroke
  • Rejection of the donor heart by your body
  • Problems in the coronary arteries, where the walls of the arteries may thicken or harden, leading to heart failure or irregular heart rhythms
  • The medications that you have to take for the rest of your life can lead to health issues like high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney damage or osteoporosis. The medicines can also increase your risk of cancer and infection, as it decreases the ability of your body to treat infections.

More Info

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.

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Popular Questions & Answers

Hi, before a month she had an operation of heart transplant now she is unable to go to washroom I mean like constipation.

BHMS
Homeopath, Faridabad
Hello, you want a solution for constipation then take bio combination no. 04, 4 tablets at a time, three times a day, 15 min. after meals. Alpha LIV, 2 tsp daily after dinner. Avoid the following foods that can cause constipation include: Chocolat...
1 person found this helpful

Is there any solution for heart muscles weakening, I'm afraid that is it leads to a heart transplantation?

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Cardiologist, Secunderabad
Hello lybrate-user. Heart transplantation is the lasr resort, only after all the options are exausted. There can be quite improvement with proper treatment which includes diet, exercise and medications. Apart from this there are options for device...
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I have diabetes and my heart pumping is 15%. What should I do? My doctor advice me for heart transplant.

Bachelor of Unani Medicine and Surgery (B.U.M.S)
Ayurveda, Kanpur
Yogendra ras 125 mg twice a day hridyavaran avleh 10 gm twivce a day jawahar mohara pisti 500 mg twice a day contact with reports.

What are the precautions required for an ADS patient? Is there possibility of heart transplantation?

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AIDS patients need to protect themselves from sources of infection. Also ensure not infecting others through their body fluid or mucosal membrane. Heat transplantation is possible theoretically however risks are very high of post operative infecti...
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HI, I am 70 years old male. I am undergoing dialysis for past 10 years. Can I do kidney transplantation? How will be my life style after transplantation.

DNB GENERAL SURGERY, MBBS, National Board Of Examination
General Surgeon, Mumbai
Hello sir please go through my article What is a kidney transplant? — A kidney transplant is a surgery to insert a new, healthy kidney into a person whose kidneys are diseased (figure 1). Why might I have a kidney transplant? — You might have a ki...
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Table of Content

What is Heart Transplant?

Indication

What Procedure is followed :

Risk & Complication

More Info

Play video
ECMO - Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation
I am Dr. Kewal Krishan. I am a cardiac surgeon at max hospital, Saket. I am director of heart transplant ventricular assist device program. We have a separate vertical. Its only vertical in this country. A spate department for heart transplant ven...
Play video
Heart Transplant and Ventricular Cyst Device
I am Dr. Kewal Krishan. I am a cardiac surgeon at max hospital, Saket. I am director of the program of heart transplant. And we have separate vertical of a heart transplant advert and echmo. I was trained in US in MIO clinic as well as mount stann...
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