The Comprehensive Heart Failure and Transplant Program at Froedtert Hospital offers outstanding outcomes and innovative transplant options – including implantable devices. We began the program in 1985 and have past patients who have survived for more than 20 years after heart transplant. The program is certified for heart transplantation by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.
Our Transplant Center is a joint program of Children’s Wisconsin and Froedtert Hospital with vital support by Versiti Blood Center of Wisconsin for tissue typing and research initiatives. Representing the most comprehensive pediatric and adult transplant care in Wisconsin, the program is recognized for nationally ranked outcomes, internationally known transplant specialists and end-stage disease management: a critical resource for Wisconsin and beyond.
Get answers to frequently asked questions.
Over the past three decades, our heart transplant program provided excellent results for patients. For the most current heart transplant outcomes data, visit the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR).
Experienced, Compassionate Team
As an academic medical center involved in ground-breaking research, we offer deep clinical expertise and have specialists skilled at managing even the most complex cases.
Patients receive highly individualized care from our multidisciplinary heart transplant team, which includes cardiothoracic surgeons, cardiologists, pathologists, pharmacists, transplant coordinators, nurses, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, cardiac rehabilitation specialists, registered dietitians, social workers, financial counselors and psychologists.
Innovative Treatments Increase Options
As a leader in heart transplant, our ventricular assist device (VAD) program is recognized by The Joint Commission as an Adult VAD Destination Therapy Program. VADs are surgically implanted mechanical pumps that serve as a "bridge to transplant," helping support the heart so more patients can survive longer while they wait for a transplant. VADs can also be used as a “destination therapy” (DT), or long-term approach to improve the health and quality of life for some patients who are not candidates for transplant because of other significant health concerns.
The Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Heart and Vascular Center was awarded the Gold Seal of Approval by The Joint Commission for its Adult VAD Destination Therapy Program.
Our program was the first in Wisconsin to use CARDIOHELP, an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine, or ECMO, which is a portable machine for heart and lung support. The device maintains blood and oxygen circulation outside of the body for several hours or even days. Its use adds greater flexibility in patient care, especially when patients are being transported to our hospital for a heart transplant.
Pretransplant Care Raises Life Quality, Decreases Mortality
Working with experts in our Comprehensive Heart Failure and Transplant Program, heart transplant physicians help patients delay the need for a transplant for as long as possible. Using medications and treatments, including VADs, patients enjoy life to the fullest and achieve the best health status possible prior to transplant. As a result, patients in our program waiting for a heart transplant experience less than expected mortality.
Comprehensive, Coordinated Heart Transplant Care
Once the need for heart transplant is confirmed, we skillfully expedite the process and manage a patient’s care while on the waiting list. Our relationships with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) and the Wisconsin Donor Network (WDN), give patients every advantage for finding the best donor match. Physicians also consult with colleagues adept at treating conditions that lead to transplant, including adult congenital heart disease – a particular area of expertise at Froedtert Hospital.
Comprehensive Heart Failure and Transplant Program team members are dedicated to their patients’ transplant care for life. From initial evaluation through surgery and post-transplant care, staff in our Transplant Program are trusted advisors for patients as they manage antirejection medications, diet, exercise and possible other heart treatments in the years following transplant.
FAQ and Resources
What conditions lead to the need for a heart transplant?
Most people who become candidates for a heart transplant have severe heart failure from one of several causes.
- Ischemic cardiomyopathy. These patients may have had multiple heart attacks or they may have had coronary bypass surgery and no longer have any vessels to use for a bypass procedure. They also may not be able to undergo further stent procedures.
- Idiopathic cardiomyopathy. These patients, who tend to be younger, have heart failure with an unknown cause.
- Congenital heart disease. This emerging group of patients are people who have congenital heart disease that was either repaired when they were children or was never repaired. Now their hearts are starting to fail, and transplant may become an option.
Do I have any other treatment options besides transplantation?
There are a variety of treatment options available, including ventricular assist devices (VADs), but there is no one solution for every patient. Before considering transplantation, other treatments generally have been exhausted. While some organ transplants may be considered life-enhancing, a heart transplant is normally undertaken as a lifesaving procedure.
Who are good candidates for heart transplant?
Determining who is a good candidate depends on many factors. It can depend on the severity of the patient’s heart failure, overall health and whether they suffer from coronary disease, valve disease or some other condition.
Am I too old for a heart transplant?
While patients over age 70 are generally less likely to receive a transplant, that is not an absolute standard. Age is one of many factors considered.
Will other medical problems eliminate me from consideration?
Diseases that could limit the patient’s longevity or ability to recover might disqualify them from becoming a transplant candidate. For example, patients who have had cancer in the past five years are unlikely to receive a transplant.
How do I get on the transplant list? What about wait times?
If patients and physicians feel they have exhausted all treatment options and need to consider heart transplant, patients will undergo an extensive evaluation. The transplant physicians and team will review patient medical histories, conduct diagnostic tests and assess social and mental readiness for transplant. We want to make sure that patients are healthy enough for the surgery and able to comply with the care regime required after transplant to keep healthy.
Once approved for transplant, the care team will make arrangements for the patient’s name to be placed on the transplant waiting list and will discuss wait times with them. Wait times may vary greatly depending upon blood type.
I live a few hours away. Can I have pre-transplant testing done closer to home?
Transplant coordinators make it a priority to schedule pre-transplant screenings all in one day or as is most easy and convenient for patients. It is preferred that tests related to the evaluation are done at our facility so results are timely and coordinated. If scheduling becomes a problem, however, transplant coordinator can suggest other options.
What will my life be like after heart transplant?
Many people are able to resume normal activities and work without limitations after heart transplant. Patients will need to consider themselves heart transplant patients for the rest of their lives, however, as they take medications, have regular check-ups and stay as healthy as possible. Some patients find that other conditions develop after transplant, such as diabetes, kidney disease or high blood pressure. Keep in mind that conditions are manageable compared to the heart condition that led to transplant. No matter what, the transplant care team will be there with the care, tools and support patients need to live the highest quality of life.
Will I ever need another heart transplant after my first heart transplant?
Heart transplant patients generally live 13 – 15 years after their first heart transplant before a second transplant may be needed. Thanks to today’s medical advancements, it is not unusual for patients to live long enough to need more than one transplant.
Where can I get more information?
- United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) – Information about the organ allocation process and access to various national, regional, state and center-specific data reports.
- Transplant Living – A patient education site sponsored by UNOS to inform about life before and after transplant.
- Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients – Generates reports to compare survival rates of heart transplant facilities across the country
- Visit Children’s Wisconsin, Versiti Blood Center of Wisconsin and the Medical College of Wisconsin to learn more about our Transplant Center partners.
Transplant and the COVID-19 Vaccine
Transplant patients may be at a higher risk of severe COVID-19, and we have seen worse outcomes if they do get it. Due to the increased risk, we recommend transplant patients get the vaccine.