A heart transplant is surgery to remove a damaged or diseased heart and replace it with a healthy donor heart.
Heart failure is a condition in which the heart is damaged or weak. As a result, it can't pump enough blood to meet the body's needs. "End-stage" means the condition is so severe that all treatments, other than a heart transplant, have failed.
A heart transplant may be done to treat:
Once you are referred to a transplant center, you will be evaluated by the transplant team. They will want to make sure that you are a good candidate for a transplant. You will visit many times over several weeks or even months. You will need to have blood drawn and x-rays taken. The following may also be done:
You should expect to stay in the hospital for 7 to 21 days after a heart transplant. The first 24 to 48 hours will likely be in the intensive care unit (ICU). During the first few days after a transplant, you will need close follow-up to make sure that you do not get an infection and your heart is working well.
The recovery period is about 3 months and often, your transplant team will ask you to stay fairly close to the hospital during that time period. You will need to have regular check-ups with blood tests, x-rays, and echocardiograms for many years.
You must take drugs that prevent transplant rejection for the rest of your life. You will need to understand how to take these medicines, and know their side effects.
You can go back to your normal activities 3 months after the transplant as soon as you feel well enough, and after talking with your health care provider. However, avoid vigorous physical activity.