heart transplant

our 800th heart transplant patient 

Tim Sallas Finds Answers at Aurora St. Luke's 
Tim had been looking for answers at another hospital for years. When he and his wife turned to Aurora St. Luke's, they were grateful to find the treatment he needed and the personal support they wanted.

overview

If you’re suffering from congestive heart failure, severe coronary artery disease or a heart defect that medicine can’t help, you may need a heart transplant to save your life. 

During the transplant, a surgeon places a healthy heart from a recently deceased donor in your body and artificially restarts it. This can help you live longer and with a better quality of life.

why Aurora?

When you're referred to the Heart Transplant Program at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center, you can expect compassionate, exceptional care every step of the way. 

evaluation

  • Your transplant coordinator at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center will call you to discuss the transplant process and answer any questions. 
  • Your transplant clinic team will perform diagnostic tests to make sure you’re healthy enough for a transplant. We’ll also talk with you and your family so you’ll understand how transplantation may affect your life.
  • Our selection committee will decide whether transplantation is the best option for you. If so, you’ll be registered with the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS), the national computerized list that matches transplant recipients with available organs.

before your transplant

You’ll meet regularly with your transplant team so we can keep you as healthy as possible while you await transplantation. Your transplant physician and transplant nurse coordinator will monitor you closely during the waiting period. The wait for a matching heart can range from a few days to a few years. We understand that waiting for an organ transplant is difficult, so we’ll provide both emotional and medical support.

what to expect

During your transplant surgery, you’ll have anesthesia so you won’t feel any pain. Your surgeon will make an incision along your breastbone and you’ll be placed on a heart lung machine, or cardiopulmonary bypass. Your surgeon will most often replace your heart with a new donor heart. This is called orthotopic heart surgery. Sometimes, your heart will be left in place to support the donor heart. This is called hetertopic heart surgery. Your surgeon will use defibrillation or electrical shocks and possibly medications to restart the donor heart and then close your incision. Surgery usually takes from 4 to 6 hours.

recovery

You’ll stay in one of our specialized intensive care units at Aurora St. Luke’s as you recover. Your transplant team will monitor you closely for signs of infection, rejection and medication side effects. You may start physical therapy, too.

When you’re well enough, you’ll go home. We’ll work closely with you on your home care and rehabilitation, and you’ll visit our transplant clinic regularly so we can make sure you’re recovering well. You may have blood tests, radiological studies or biopsies during your visits. You’ll also get ongoing education and support. (If you live far away, you can have blood and lab work done through your primary care physician and sent to Aurora St. Luke’s.)

Your doctors will fine-tune your immunosuppressive medications as you recover. You’ll need to keep taking them for the rest of your life to keep your body from rejecting your new heart.

Within a few months, you should feel strong enough to go back to work and daily activities.

Aurora heart transplant program

Extending Lives Since 1968
Frank Downey, MD, discusses the long history of cardiac transplantation and mechanical circulatory support at Aurora St. Luke’s.

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