What Is A Heart Transplant? Why Is It Done?

3 minutes read

A heart transplant is a surgery that is done to remove the diseased or damaged heart from a person and replace it with a healthy heart that is taken from an organ donor. To remove the heart from the donor, two or more healthcare providers should declare the donor brain-dead.

Before you can be put on the waitlist for a heart transplant, a healthcare provider decides that a heart transplant is the best and effective treatment choice for your heart failure. A healthcare team also makes sure that you are healthy enough to go through and survive the transplant process. Read the transplantation journal for more.

Why Is A Heart Transplant Done?

Heart transplants are performed when other treatments have not worked, leading to the failure of the heart. In adults, heart failure may be caused by various conditions, including:

  • Heart valve disease
  • Heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • A weakening of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy)
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Viral infections of the heart muscle
  • Amyloidosis
  • Heart valve disease
  • High blood pressure in the lungs
  • A heart problem you’re born with (congenital heart defect)
  • Irregular heartbeats  
  • Alcoholism or drug abuse
  • Dangerous recurring abnormal heart rhythms (ventricular arrhythmias) which are not controlled by other treatments
  • Low red blood cell count
  • Chronic lung diseases
  • Failure of a previous heart transplant
  • In children, heart failure is very often caused either by a congenital heart defect or a cardiomyopathy.

Another organ transplant, termed as a multiorgan transplant, may be performed at the same time as a heart transplant in people with certain conditions at some medical centers.

The Multi-Organ Transplants include:

  • Heart-Kidney Transplant: This procedure can be an option for people with kidney failure, along with heart failure.
  • Heart-Liver Transplant: This transplant procedure is an option for people suffering from certain liver and heart conditions.
  • Heart-Lung Transplant: Doctors rarely might suggest this procedure for people with severe lung and heart diseases who are in critical condition, if the conditions are not able to be treated only by either a heart transplant or lung transplant.

What Are The Risks Involved With Heart Transplant?

Complications are possible in any surgery. Some of the potential risks of a heart transplant may involve:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding during or after the surgery
  • Breathing problems
  • Blood clots that can cause a heart attack, stroke, or lung problems
  • Failure of the donor’s heart
  • Kidney failure
  • Coronary Allograft Vasculopathy (CAV): This is an issue with the blood vessels that carry blood to the heart muscle itself. These vessels become thick and hard, which can cause severe heart muscle damage.
  • In the worst case scenario, death

What Are The Factors that may Affect your Eligibility for a heart transplant?

A heart transplant is not the right treatment for everyone. There are some specific factors which may mean that you are not the right candidate for the transplant. While each case is considered individually by the transplant center, a heart transplant may not be suitable if you:

  • Have an active contamination.
  • Are an advanced age that would interrupt with the ability to recover from the transplant surgery.
  • Have another medical condition that might shorten your life, irrespective of receiving a donor heart, such as a serious liver, kidney, or lung disease.
  • Are unable or not willing to make lifestyle changes which are necessary to keep your donor heart healthy, such as not smoking or drinking alcohol.
  • Have a recent medical history of cancer. You can also read the medicinal chemistry journal.

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