Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Heart Transplant
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.
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.
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 1 year. About 60 out of 100 survive 10 years.footnote 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.footnote 2
Risks from heart transplant include:
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.
Stehlik J, et al. (2012). The registry of the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation: 29th official adult heart transplant report—2012. Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation, 31(10): 1052–1064. DOI:10.1016/j.healun.2012.08.002. Accessed August 26, 2015.
Patel JK, Kobashigawa JA (2011). Heart transplantation. Circulation, 124(4): e132–e134.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerRakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, ElectrophysiologyE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerStephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology
Current as ofJanuary 27, 2016
Current as of:
January 27, 2016
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & Stephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2016 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.