- What conditions lead to the need for a heart transplant?
- Do I have any other treatment options besides transplantation?
- Who are good candidates for heart transplant?
- Am I too old for a heart transplant?
- Will other medical problems eliminate me from consideration?
- How do I get on the transplant list?
- I live a few hours away. Can I have pre-transplant testing done closer to home?
- What will my life be like after heart transplant?
- Will I ever need another transplant after my first heart transplant?
- Where can I get more information about 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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 and the Medical College of Wisconsin to learn more about our Transplant Center partners.