Heart Transplant Program

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can be a candidate for heart transplant?
Patients with congestive heart failure and cardiomyopathy that have been treated with medications for years, may be considered if their medications are no longer effective. Heart transplant only become an option if all other treatments have been exhausted.

How do you become listed for heart transplantation?
After being referred to the Transplant Clinic by your primary physician, the Transplant Clinic coordinator will contact you to setup an initial appointment and review the heart transplant process. After completing the necessary interviews and diagnostic tests your case will be referred to a selection committee that will determine if you are a candidate for heart transplant. Upon approval by the selection committee, you will be listed on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).

How long do you wait for the heart transplant?
The amount of time you will wait depends on several variables: your place on the transplant list, your blood type, and your clinical status. When you are placed on the transplant list you are placed in a category based on the immediacy of your need for a new heart. Your ranking on this list determines when you will receive a heart.

Your blood type must be an acceptable match with the heart donor's blood type. You will wait on the list until an acceptable match is available.

Your clinical status indicates how healthy you are while on the transplant list. If your health deteriorates or you have an infection, those issues need to be addressed before you can receive a heart.

What happens during the heart transplant surgery?
If an appropriate donor heart is found, the St. Luke's Procurement Team will bring the heart to St. Luke's while you are prepared for surgery. Surgery can take from 4 - 6 hours and the patient will be moved to a specialized Intensive Care Unit following surgery.

What is rejection after transplantation?
Rejection is the most common complication of heart transplantation. Signs of rejection can include shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling of the legs, irregular heart beat, stomach pain, nausea or decreased blood pressure. Patients are given immunosuppressive medications that they will continue to take for the rest of their lives. These medications work to prevent the body from rejecting the new organ. Physicians will check for signs of rejection throughout the patient's life.

What can heart transplant recipients expect following their transplant?
For the first few weeks after transplant, patients can expect frequent appointments with the transplant clinic where they will check for signs of rejection and appropriate recovery. Patients will also undergo rehabilitation to help them return to normal activity. Most patients regain their health and strength and are able to resume everyday activities within a few months.

Who can become a donor?
Anyone can make the choice to become an organ donor. If you would like to become an organ donor, be sure to fill out the organ donation information on your driver's license and share your decision with your family and friends.

Is there a cost to donating your organs?
No. There is no cost to the donor or donor's family.

To learn more, click here or call 414-646-5410.