A heart transplant is a surgical procedure that removes a diseased heart from a patient and replaces it with a healthy heart from an organ donor. A heart transplant is typically recommended when the patient is experiencing heart failure, such as congestive heart failure, a medical condition in which the heart cannot pump enough oxygen-rich blood to meet the needs of the body's other organs. A heart transplant is performed only when all other congestive heart failure treatment or arrhythmia treatment options have proven ineffective.
Heart Transplant Surgery
During the heart transplant, patients are attached to a ventilator that controls breathing and a cardiopulmonary bypass machine that pumps blood through the body while the diseased heart is removed. Surgeons then sew the donor heart into place and reattach blood vessels. The new heart is shocked with small paddles to restart the heartbeat, and when the heart is pumping, the patient is removed from the ventilator and bypass machines.Patients that have been accepted as heart transplant candidates are placed on the United Network for Organ Sharing list and must wait for the availability of a donor organ. When a donor heart becomes available, patients must come to the hospital immediately to be prepared for the transplant.
Recovery typically involves a hospital stay of at least 7 to 14 days, followed by convalescence at home. Heart transplant patients must take anti-rejection medications that help the new heart survive in the body.
Heart Transplant at BWH
The Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) Heart Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support Program is the oldest and largest program in New England and one of the most experienced programs in the country. Our surgeons performed the first successful heart transplant in New England in 1984 and in more than 600 transplants since, we have consistently exceeded regional and national averages for successful outcomes.
Heart transplant services at BWH are performed by a multidisciplinary team of cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, clinical nurse specialist, psychiatrists, pharmacists, and dietitians who collaborate to provide innovative and comprehensive care for our patients. Our team is also pioneering new therapies and screening techniques to enhance care for patients with advanced heart disease.
In addition to heart transplant surgery, patients at BWH may seek treatment for a wide variety of heart conditions that include cardiac amyloidosis, congenital and inherited cardiac disorders, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, cardiovascular disease, and many other conditions. BWH is also a leading provider of diagnostic and treatment services for women and heart disease.
Learn more about the Advanced Heart Disease Program and Heart Transplant Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.