A heart transplant is a surgery carried out to replace a failing, damaged and dysfunctional heart with a healthier donor heart. This transplant is a medical treatment option for people who are in the end stages of heart failure. And for people who have tried several medications, lifestyle changes, and less invasive procedures which haven’t succeeded.
Heart Transplant is performed on a patient when the treatments for other serious heart ailments haven't succeeded. This may lead to a dysfunctional heart ultimately leading to heart failure. Here are the following conditions that can lead to heart failure:
• a congenital defect
• coronary artery disease
• a valve dysfunction or disease
• a weakened heart muscle (cardiomyopathy)
• Recurring abnormal heart rhythms (ventricular arrhythmias)
• Previous heart transplant failure
For a heart transplant, eligibility of both the patient and donor is highly investigated. Both should meet certain criteria set up by the medical professionals, failing which you can be held ineligible for the Heart Transplant.
As a patient, you can be denied eligibility for a heart transplant if you:
• Are at an age where recovery post the heart transplant wouldn't be significant.
• Have a serious medical condition that could shorten your life, such as a serious kidney, liver or
• lung disease, or even cancer
• Have a prolonged infection
• Have a recent personal medical history of cancer
• Are unable to make lifestyle changes necessary to keep your donor heart-healthy, like giving up drinking and smoking habits
Heart transplant surgery lasts for several hours. If you've had previous heart surgeries, the surgery is more complicated and will take longer. You'll be put to sleep after being injected general anaesthesia before the procedure. Your surgeons will connect you to a heart-lung bypass machine to keep oxygen-rich blood flowing throughout your body.
Your surgeon will make an incision in your chest to separate your chest bone and open your rib cage. After the incision the surgeon would remove your diseased heart, leaving the pulmonary vein openings and the back wall of the left atrium intact.
After this, the surgeon stitches the donor heart with the major blood vessels to maintain the blood flow so that donor's heart starts beating normally. Post this transplant the heart-lung machine would be removed. Sometimes an electric shock is needed to make the donor's heart beat properly.
After the Heart Transplant surgery,
• You'll be given immediate medication to cope with pain.
• You'll also have a ventilator to help you breathe and tubes in your chest to drain fluids from around your lungs and heart.
• You'll also receive fluids and medications through intravenous (IV) tubes.
Since the Heart Transplant surgery is very delicate, as a patient you would be required to spend the initial few days post your Heart Transplant surgery in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) after which you may be moved to a regular ward.
At the ICU, you'll be closely monitored at your outpatient transplant centre by your transplant team. You'll need to make long-term changes to your lifestyle your heart transplant surgery. These include:
• Taking immunosuppressants: To suppress your immune system from attacking the donated heart.
• Medications & check-ups: After your heart transplant surgery, you would be prescribed a lifelong plan of medications, lifestyle and certain do's and donts. You will be also required to make frequent visits to your doctor to keep a check on your health progress post the surgery.
• Cardiac rehabilitation: These programs collaborate exercise with education to help you improve your health and recover after a heart transplant.
Heart Transplant surgery is a very complicated procedure. Although full caution is taken before the surgery, there can be a number of side effects that one must take an account of before heading for transplant surgery. These risks or side effects can come from Rejection of the new heart, Graft Failure, immunosuppressant side effects. Some of them include:
• Increased vulnerability to infections
• Weight gain
• Kidney problems
• High blood pressure
• Weakened bones (osteoporosis)
• An increased risk of certain types of cancer
• Chills and aches
• Puffy, swollen ankles
It is estimated that the total mortality associated with heart transplant procedure in India is only about 10 per cent, which is the lowest in the world. As a matter of fact, in some of the best hospitals for a heart transplant in India, the success rate of patients is as high as 90 to 95 per cent.