Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Heart Failure Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Heart Failure and Heart Transplants

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

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. Approximately 2,300 heart transplants are performed each year in the U. S.

Recommended Related to Heart Failure

Understanding Heart Failure -- Diagnosis and Treatment

Doctors diagnose heart failure by taking a medical history and conducting a physical exam and tests.  During the medical history your doctor will want to know if: You have any other health problems such as diabetes, kidney disease, angina (chest pain), high blood pressure, or other heart problems You smoke You drink alcohol, and if so, how much You are taking medications. During the physical, the doctor will check your blood pressure, use a stethoscope to hear sounds associated...

Read the Understanding Heart Failure -- Diagnosis and Treatment article > >

Why Are Heart Transplants Performed?

A heart transplant is considered when heart failure is so severe that it does not respond to all other therapies, but the person's health is otherwise good.

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 heart transplantation is right for you.

  • Have all other therapies been tried or excluded?
  • Are you likely to die in the near future 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, heart transplantation 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.

What Is the Process for Getting a Heart Transplant?

In order to get a heart transplant, you must first be placed on a transplant list. But, before you can be placed on the transplant list, you must go through a careful screening process. A team of heart doctors, nurses, social workers, and bioethicists review your medical history, diagnostic test results, social history, and psychological test results to see if you are able to survive the procedure and then comply with the continuous care needed to live a healthy life.

Once you are approved, you must wait for a donor to become available. This process can be long and stressful. A supportive network of family and friends is needed to help you through this time. The health care team will monitor you closely to keep your heart failure in control until a donor heart is found. The hospital must know where to contact you at all times should a heart become available.

How Are Organ Donors Found?

Donors for heart transplants are individuals who may have recently died or become brain dead, which means that although their body is being kept alive by machines, the brain has no sign of life. Many times, these donors died as a result of a car accident, severe head injury, or a gunshot wound.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

WebMD Medical Reference

Today on WebMD

Man holding hand on chest
SLIDESHOW
Salt Shockers
Slideshow
 
Inside A Heart Attack
Slideshow
lowering blood pressure
SLIDESHOW
 

Mechanical Heart
Article
Omega 3 Overview Slideshow
Slideshow
 
Atrial Fibrillation Guide
Slideshow
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Slideshow
 

Compressed heart
Article
FAQ Heart Failure
Article
 
Cholesterol Confusion
Health Check
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Slideshow
 

WebMD Special Sections