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Heart Disease Health Center

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Heart Disease and Heart Transplant

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A heart transplant is the replacement of a person's diseased heart with a donor's healthy heart. The donor is a person who has died and whose family has agreed to donate their loved one's organs.

In the more than four decades since the performance of the first human heart transplant in 1967, heart transplantation has changed from an experimental operation to an established treatment for advanced heart disease. More than 2,000 heart transplants are performed each year in the U.S. Each year thousands more would benefit from a heart transplant if more donated hearts were available.

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Atherosclerosis and Coronary Artery Disease

Atherosclerosis -- sometimes called hardening of the arteries -- can slowly narrow and harden the arteries throughout the body. When atherosclerosis affects the arteries of the heart, it’s called coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease is the No. 1 killer of Americans. Most of these deaths are from heart attacks caused by sudden blood clots in the heart’s arteries. Atherosclerosis can create life-threatening blockages without you ever feeling a thing. Since we’re all at risk for coronary...

Read the Atherosclerosis and Coronary Artery Disease article > >

Why Are Heart Transplants Performed?

A heart transplant is considered when heart failure is so severe that it does not respond to any other therapy, but the person's health is otherwise good. The leading reasons why people receive heart transplants are because they have:

It is important to note that there are many new innovations for the treatment of heart failure, from new drugs to pacemakers and new surgical therapies. When determining your treatment options, it is important to be evaluated by a doctor who specializes in heart failure.

Who Is Considered a Candidate for a Heart Transplant?

People who have advanced (end stage) heart failure, but are otherwise healthy, may be considered for a heart transplant.

The following basic questions should be considered by you, your doctor, and your family to determine if a heart transplant is right for you:

  • Have all other therapies been tried or excluded?
  • Are you likely to die without the transplant?
  • Are you in generally good health other than the heart or heart and lung disease?
  • Can you adhere to the lifestyle changes, including complex drug treatments and frequent exams, required after a transplant?

If you answered 'no' to any of the above questions, a heart transplant may not be for you. Also, if you have additional medical problems, such as other severe diseases, active infections, or severe obesity, you most likely will not be considered a candidate for transplant.

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