What Is Heart Transplantation?
Heart transplantation surgery involves the removal of a diseased heart and replacing it with a healthy heart from an organ donor. In most cases, the reason for a heart transplant is severe heart failure caused by heart disease, viral infections or inherited conditions.
Northwestern Medicine heart transplantations are performed by highly skilled cardiac surgeons with extensive experience in this specialty.
Many patients with heart failure may feel symptom relief by limiting their fluid and salt intake, taking medicines prescribed by their physicians and/or having heart surgery or the placement of pacemakers and defibrillators.
Sometimes, however, a patient's heart failure worsens despite medical and/or surgical therapy. Patients with worsening heart failure experience symptoms—such as difficulty breathing, fatigue or swelling—that increase in frequency or severity. Their ability to perform normal daily activities like eating, bathing and grooming, decreases despite medications or heart surgery.
After extensive discussion with their cardiologists and cardiac surgeons, patients who are good candidates for heart transplantation are registered with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) to find a donor heart.
Northwestern Memorial Hospital was the first program in Illinois to use the TransMedics Organ Care System (OCS™) for heart transplantation. This innovative system increases the number of available hearts for transplant by up to 30 percent in the United States.
While there are risks, heart transplant has a good success rate. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recent survival rates nationally are about 85 percent at one year after surgery.