Heart transplant process

A heart transplant is an operation that replaces a damaged or diseased heart with a healthy heart. The healthy heart comes from another person who has suffered brain death, but whose heart is working normally.

Conditions leading to transplant

Heart transplants are performed in patients with end stage heart failure when other treatments have been unsuccessful. Some of these complex conditions include:

Before surgery

To receive a heart transplant, it must first be determined that you are a viable candidate. An evaluation will be completed by our transplant team to check if you:

  • Have a heart condition that would benefit from a transplant
  • Are healthy enough to undergo the surgery and the post-transplant treatments
  • Are willing to follow the medical program outlined by our transplant team

Once the benefits and risks of a transplant are weighed, if it is decided that you are a candidate for a heart transplant, you will be put on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) waiting list.

When a possible match is found, you will be contacted immediately by our team. A last evaluation will be done upon your arrival to confirm suitability.

What to expect after surgery

After you have received your new heart, you will stay in our Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for at least 3-5 days before moving to a regular hospital room for up to 2 weeks. Upon leaving Tufts Medical Center, you will be closely monitored by our transplant team through follow-up visits as the immediate months following the procedure are crucial. We will check for signs of organ rejection or other complications, such as:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Infrequent urination
  • Weight gain

Tests involving blood work, echocardiograms, electrocardiograms, and heart biopsies will also be performed. Some long-term adjustments that can be expected include:

  • Taking immuno suppresant medications
  • Cardiac rehabilitation
  • Adhering to a strict low-bacteria diet
  • Follow-up visits monthly for the first year
  • Follow-up visits every three months for years 1-5
  • Follow-up visits every six months after 5 years