Heart Transplant Heart failure is a condition in which your heart can no longer provide enough blood to keep up with your body’s needs. Heart failure can be caused by several different problems, including coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, heart attack or congenital heart problems. In many cases, heart failure can be treated effectively with medications. When medications do not help and symptoms become severe, a heart transplant may need to be considered. A heart transplant can restore the health and energy you had prior to heart failure. There are many important risks to consider, though, and patients requiring a heart transplant may encounter long waits for a donor heart. How it’s Done Prior to a heart transplant, your cardiologist must determine if this surgery is appropriate for you. For example, you may not be considered a good candidate for a heart transplant if you have other serious medical conditions, or if you are older than 65. Once you have been identified as suitable for a heart transplant, you need to wait for a donor heart to become available. This can take many months. During this time, your doctors and nurses work with you to help you manage your heart failure. When a donor heart becomes available, you are notified immediately. The heart transplant must be performed right away, while the donor heart is still healthy. Heart transplant surgery takes four hours or longer. You are put under general anesthesia and a heart lung machine takes over supplying blood to your body. Your diseased heart is removed and the donor heart is sewn in place. Donor hearts often start beating on their own. Otherwise, your surgeon will stimulate it to start beating with an electric shock. Most patients remain in the hospital for 7-14 days after a heart transplant. The recovery period at home takes several months, and requires the support of family and friends. There are certain medications you will have to take for the rest of your life to prevent your body from rejecting your new heart. Many patients with heart transplants have lived 10 years or more with their new hearts. Risks There are two kinds of risks associated with heart surgery: The risks of the surgery itself, and the risks of living with a new heart. Infection Reaction to anesthesia Rejection of your new heart Arterial problems Kidney damage from immunosuppressant drugs Cancer caused by immunosuppressant drugs Death Technology and Expertise at URMC The Program in Heart Failure and Transplantation at URMC is the largest and most successful ongoing heart transplant program in Upstate New York. Our program has performed over 120 heart transplants for heart failure patients from throughout New York State and Northern Pennsylvania since its inception in 2001. Our outcomes compare favorably to the best heart transplant centers in the nation, with our most recent one-year survival rate being 91%. We are also one of the most experienced centers in the nation in the use of ventricular assist devices (VADs). These artificial heart pumps can often provide new hope for heart failure patients who are not appropriate for heart transplant surgery. As a highly experienced program in a smaller metropolitan area, we are able to give patients a high level of personal attention to help them through the challenging process of heart transplant. For more information on the Program in Heart Failure and Transplantation at URMC, contact us at (585) 273-3760.