The Heart Transplant Process
A patient requires a heart transplant when a doctor refers a patient to be in end-stage heart failure to a heart transplant centre. Staff members at the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network Centre will assess the patient if they are eligible for the surgery. If the patient is eligible, they are placed on the waiting list for a donor’s heart.
Heart Transplant surgery is done in a hospital when a suitable donor heart is found. Post-transplant, the patient undergoes a lifelong health care plan. Multiple medicines and frequent medical check-ups are administered.
Are you eligible for a Heart Transplant?
The specialists at the heart transplant centre will assess whether a patient is eligible for a transplant. Specialists often include a:
- Cardiovascular Surgeon
- Transplant Coordinator
- Social Worker
Heart Failure is considered “end-stage” when all possible treatments such as medicines, implanted devices and surgery have failed. Some of the factors that can affect the chances of getting a transplant are:
- Advanced Age
- Poor Blood Circulation
- Kidney, Lung and Liver Disease
- Inability or Unwillingness to follow a lifelong care plan after a transplant
- Pulmonary Hypertension
- Active Infection throughout the body
- Diabetes with end organ damage
- Patients with one or more of the above conditions might not be eligible for transplant surgery.
What to Expect After a Heart Transplant?
Staying in the Hospital
The amount of time a heart transplant recipient spends in the hospital varies. Recovery involves 1-2 weeks in the hospital and 3 months of monitoring by the transplant team at the heart transplant centre. The monitoring of a patient includes blood tests, lung function tests, EKG, echocardiograms, biopsies of the heart tissue and others.
Most importantly, a Heart Biopsy is one of the major tests, it is a standard test and is done to know whether your body is rejecting the new heart. It is done in the weeks after the transplant. It is like a laparoscopic procedure. You can also choose to join an active cardiac rehabilitation program.
Getting Alert by the Signs of Rejection
- Shortness of breath
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Weight gain (retaining fluid in the body)
- Reduced amounts of urine (problems in the kidneys can cause this sign)
Medication is administered to suppress your immune system so that it doesn’t reject the new heart. The medication is known as an immunosuppressant. Your doctor might change the medicine if they are not working or are effective for your condition. Manage your medicines well and look for any side effects that are listed with the medicine.
Some transplant medicines can increase your risk of infection. Fever, sore throat, cold sores, flu-like symptoms are some signs of infection. Also, possible sings of lung infection are too be looked for some of them are shortness of breath, cough, and change in the colour of sputum or spit. Major attention is to paid to the site of incision. These signs can be redness, swelling or drainage.