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Heart Transplant


A heart transplant is open heart surgery to remove the severely diseased heart from a person and replace it with a healthy one from an organ donor. It can be the last option for people suffering from end stages or final stage of heart failure in which the heart muscle is failing to pump blood through the body and other less invasive treatments are not proving successful. It may take several hours and can be more complicated if the patient had previous heart surgeries.

Successful heart transplant can be performed on patients who have rest of the vital organs of the body in healthy shape. Patients who smoke and abuse alcohol or have a unhealthy lifestyle or diet needs to change such habits much before the time of the surgery and requires a proper medication to become suitable heart recipient. On the other hand, donor heart must be compatible with the recipient’s immune system to reduce the chances of rejection.

Some causes of heart failure may include:

1. Myocardial infraction or MI commonly known as heart attack.

2. Infection in the heart muscle

3. Drug abuse

4. Alcoholism

5. Anemia

6. Cardiomyopathy (thick and enlarged heart muscles)

7. Chronic Lung Disease

8. Pulmonary Hypertension (blood pressure in the lungs)

9. Arrhythmias

10. Congenital heart defect

11. Heart valve dysfunction

12. Coronary artery disease

13. Unhealthy lifestyle and habits

14. Unhealthy food habits

Doctors will see if the patient is suitable for heart transplant keeping all above factors in mind and by evaluating:

a) The psychological and social issues such as health history, stress, financial issues, and family support.

b) Blood tests – to help in finding a good donor match that can reduce the risk of rejection.

c) Diagnostic tests – proper test of lungs, x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scan, PFTs and dental exams. For female patient, they might have to go through Pap test, gynecological tests and mammogram.

Heart transplant surgery lasts for four to five hours. In this surgery, surgeon will make an incision/cut in patient’s chest, separates the chest bone and open rib cage to perform operation. Surgeon will then replace the diseased/defected heart with the donor heart and sewn it into place by attaching the major blood vessels to the donor heart. As soon as blood flow is restored the donor heart will start beating.

Your surgeon will remove your heart, leaving the pulmonary vein openings and the back wall of the left atrium intact. They’ll do this to prepare you to receive the new heart. But sometimes an electric shock is needed to prompt a heartbeat. During this procedure, patient will be placed on a heart-lung machine to keep blood circulating throughout the body and tubes in chest to drain fluids from around the lungs and heart.

Your surgeon will remove your heart, leaving the pulmonary vein openings and the back wall of the left atrium intact. They’ll do this to prepare you to receive the new heart. But sometimes an electric shock is needed to prompt a heartbeat. During this procedure, patient will be placed on a heart-lung machine to keep blood circulating throughout the body and tubes in chest to drain fluids from around the lungs and heart.

After the surgery pain relievers, other medications immunosuppressant and fluids will be given through intravenous tubes. Patient will be kept in the intensive care unit for few days for proper monitoring and then shifted to regular hospital room for a week or two depending on the recovery. After leaving the hospital patient will be monitored for any signs of infection or rejection of the donor heart or symptoms like fever, fatigue, breathlessness, less urination, fluid retention for first few months by the heart transplant team. Regular follow-ups, tests, echocardiograms and biopsies may be required.

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