How is eligibility for a heart transplant determined?

A heart transplant is a surgical procedure performed to remove the diseased heart from a patient and replace it with a healthy one from an organ donor. Because of the wide range of information necessary to determine eligibility for transplant, the evaluation process is carried out by a transplant team. The team includes a transplant surgeon, a transplant cardiologist (physician specializing in the treatment of the heart), one or more transplant nurses, a social worker, and a psychiatrist or psychologist. Additional team members may include a dietician, a chaplain, and/or an anesthesiologist. Components of the evaluation process include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • Psychological and social evaluation: Psychological and social issues involved in organ transplantation, such as stress, financial issues, and support by family and/or significant others are assessed. These issues can significantly impact the outcome of a transplant.
  • Blood tests: Blood tests are performed to help determine a good donor match and to help improve the chances that the donor organ will not be rejected.
  • Diagnostic tests: Diagnostic tests may be performed to assess your lungs as well as your overall health status. These tests may include x-rays, ultrasound procedures, computed tomography (CT scan), pulmonary function tests, and dental examinations. Women may receive a Pap test, gynecology evaluation, and a mammogram.
  • Other preparations: Several immunizations will be given to decrease the chances of developing infections that can affect the transplanted heart.
The transplant team will consider all information from interviews, your medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic tests in determining your eligibility for heart transplantation.

Continue Learning about Heart Transplant

Heart Transplant

Diseased hearts can be replaced during a heart transplant, a measure taken to help save a persons life after other treatments have failed.If you have end-stage heart failure, which has severely weakened or damaged your heart, you ...

most likely will need a heart transplant. However, because so few hearts are available, you must be sick enough to need a new heart but healthy enough to survive the surgery. In the U.S., only about 2,000 hearts are available each year, while there are 3,000 people waiting for a new heart. While you wait for a new heart, your doctor may insert a ventricular assist device (VAD) to help your heart continue to function. Once you have the transplant, you will need to take medications to suppress your immune system, so it doesnt attack your new heart. A team of doctors will monitor if your body accepts the new heart. The team will also look out for any infections that you may develop because of a suppressed immune system.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.