A heart transplant is a surgical procedure that is often used for treating the most serious cases of heart diseases. This treatment option is basically meant for individuals who are in the advanced phases of heart failure. You need to know that in order to undergo heart transplant surgery, people must meet certain specific criteria. Read on this post to learn more about heart transplant surgery and its recovery and outlook.
Heart Transplant Surgery Overview
In a heart transplant surgery, the patient’s diseased heart is replaced with a healthy heart from a departed donor. Most heart transplant surgeries are performed on patients who are in the advanced stages of heart failure. You need to know that in conditions of heart failure, the heart of a person gets weak or damaged and as a result, it fails to pump sufficient blood to meet the body’s needs. This end-stage condition of the heart is so severe that no other treatment, except for a heart transplant, can alleviate it. This is why heart transplants are commonly performed as a life-saving measure for most cases of end-stage heart failure.
The procedure starts when doctors refer a heart transplant surgery to any patient who has a weak, damaged heart or has end stage heart failure. You need to know that the heart transplant surgery is usually done in a hospital or a heart transplant center after a fitting donor heart is arranged. Once the transplant surgery is done, it becomes imperative for the patient to start his lifelong health care plan. This health care plan includes multiple medications, frequent medical check-ups, and other precautions.
Who Needs A Heart Transplant?
Most patients are referred to hospitals or heart transplant centers for heart transplant surgery.
These patients usually have advanced-stage heart failures as a result of:
- Viral heart infections
- Hereditary conditions
- Coronary heart disease
- Damaged heart valves and muscles (caused due to medicines, alcohol, or pregnancy)
A heart transplant surgery is extremely complicated and thus, its patients must follow a vigorous lifelong health care plan in order to recover completely.
What To Expect Before & After a Heart Transplant Surgery
People who are eligible for a heart transplant surgery are firstly added to the donor heart waiting list. You need to know that this waiting list is a vital part of the national organ allocation system for benefactor organs and is operated by OPTN (Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network). The donor organs are then matched for blood type as well as the heart size of the donor and the recipient.
The Donor Heart – There are essential guidelines on the selection of a donor’s heart. As per these guidelines, the donor must be aged below 65 years and should have no history of heart disease. It is also imperative that the donor must not be exposed to HIV or hepatitis. The guidelines also recommend that the donor heart should not be kept without blood circulation for more than 4 hours.
After heart surgery, the patient must undergo continuous monitoring that may include blood tests, EKGs, lung function tests, biopsies of heart tissues, and echocardiograms. In addition to this, it is also important for patients to look out for signs of rejection. After a heart transplant surgery, the patient’s body regards the new heart as a foreign object. This is why it is significantly important for patients to look out for signs of rejection and take necessary medicines to prevent their immune system from rejecting the heart.
Recovery & Outlook
After your heart transplant surgery is done, you must undergo frequent follow-up appointments in order to ensure the healthy long-term recovery and management of the surgery. Your medical team will carry out certain blood tests, echocardiograms, and heart biopsies through catheterization monthly. All this is done to make sure your new heart is functioning properly.
It is also imperative that you adjust your immune-suppressant medications as advised by your healthcare team. You must also watch out for different signs of rejection like faint or fatigue and report them immediately to your cardiac team so that proper monitoring and analysis could be done.
Receiving a new heart can considerably improve your quality of life, but you’ll have to take proper care of it. Make sure you follow a heart-healthy diet along with necessary lifestyle changes as prescribed by your doctor.