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Heart Disease and Heart Transplant

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What Happens During a Heart Transplant?

Once a donor heart becomes available, a surgeon from the transplant center surgically removes the heart from the donor's body. The heart is cooled and stored in a special solution while being taken to the recipient. The surgeon will make sure the donor heart is in good condition before beginning the transplant surgery. The transplant surgery will take place as soon as possible after the donor heart becomes available.

During the operation, the patient is placed on a heart-lung machine. This machine allows the body to receive vital oxygen and nutrients from the blood even though the heart is being operated on.

Surgeons then remove the patient's heart except for the back walls of the atria, the heart's upper chambers. The backs of the atria on the new heart are opened and the heart is sewn into place.

Surgeons then connect the blood vessels, allowing blood to flow through the heart and lungs. As the heart warms up, it begins beating. Surgeons check all the connected blood vessels and heart chambers for leaks before removing the patient from the heart-lung machine.

It is a complicated operation that lasts from four to 10 hours.

Most patients are up and around within a few days after surgery, and if there are no signs of the body immediately rejecting the organ, patients are allowed to go home within seven to 16 days.

What Are the Risks Associated With Heart Transplants?

The most common causes of death following a transplant are infection and rejection. Patients on drugs to prevent transplant rejection are at risk for developing kidney damage, high blood pressure, osteoporosis (a severe thinning of the bones, which can cause fractures), and lymphoma (a type of cancer that affects cells of the immune system).

Coronary artery disease develops in almost half the patients who receive transplants. And many of them have no symptoms, such as angina, because they have no sensation in their new hearts.

What Is Organ Rejection?

Normally, the body's immune system protects the body from infection. This occurs when cells of the immune system move around the body, checking for anything that looks foreign or different from the body's own cells.

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