More than five million Americans are currently living with heart failure. While it is estimated that 250,000 patients have advanced heart failure and might benefit from heart transplant, only 2,000 to 2,200 donor hearts are available each year.
In patients with heart failure, the heart is unable to pump enough oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to meet the body’s needs. While there are many therapies available to prevent or delay the need for a heart transplant, some patients ultimately require a heart transplant after they have exhausted other options. Patients must undergo a comprehensive evaluation to determine if a heart transplant is an appropriate option.
Who performs a heart transplant?
A heart transplant is performed by a cardiac surgeon with specialized expertise in heart transplantation. The cardiac surgeon collaborates with other advanced heart disease specialists to determine whether a patient is eligible for a heart transplant, to prepare the patient for heart transplantation, and to locate a donor heart.
How is a donor heart found?
If a patient with heart failure is eligible for a heart transplant, the heart transplant team begins the search for a suitable donor. As part of this process, the patient’s name is added to the regional and national lists of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).
Heart transplant centers in New England work with the New England Organ Bank (NEOB) team to find a donor who matches the recipient’s requirements, such as similar age and matching blood type. The allocation of organs is based on a priority system that takes into account medical urgency, time on the waiting list, and blood type compatibility.
What therapies can be used while a patient waits for a donor heart?
Patients with heart failure will continue to receive medical management while awaiting a donor heart. In some cases, the patient may receive a ventricular assist device as a bridge-to-transplantation. These implantable devices support the patient until a donor heart becomes available. In select cases, these devices can serve as lifelong therapy if the patient is not eligible for a heart transplant.
Center for Advanced Heart Failure/Cardiomyopathy at Brigham and Women’s Hospital
The Center for Advanced Heart Failure/Cardiomyopathy, an integral part of the Heart & Vascular Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), brings together heart failure experts, including cardiologists, interventional cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, cardiovascular imaging specialists, congenital heart disease specialists, and many others, to care for patients as one team. Together, the team tailors therapies to each patient’s needs, offering the latest medical, interventional, and surgical approaches.
The Center’s Heart Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support Program is the oldest of its kind in New England and one of the most experienced in the country. A heart transplantation team at BWH performed the first heart transplant in New England in 1984. Since that time, more than 600 heart transplants have been completed at BWH. Heart transplant outcomes at BWH consistently exceed regional and national averages.
The Program’s multidisciplinary team, including cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, clinical nurse specialists, psychiatrists, pharmacists, and dietitians, provides patient screening, preoperative monitoring, donor procurement, surgery, and long-term post-operative care.
Patient- and Family-centered Care
BWH has long been committed to not only the care of our patients but also the many other needs that they and their families have. This philosophy of patient- and family-focused care involves systems and services that emphasize healing in a comfortable, relaxed environment.
Quality of Patient Care
Brigham and Women’s Hospital is committed to providing all of our patients with the safest, highest-quality, most-satisfying care possible and follow established protocols that have been shown to improve patient outcomes. Our inpatient satisfaction survey, sent to patients’ to assess their total care experience, helps us to monitor what we are doing well and areas for improvement. We pride ourselves in the quality of patient care we provide and how we are measured compared with other hospitals.
If you believe you should have an evaluation and would like to schedule an appointment with one of our experts, call 1-800-294-9999 to speak to one of our knowledgeable coordinators who can help to connect you to the doctor that best meets your needs, or fill out an online appointment request form.