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What stops my immune system from rejecting my new heart?

After your heart transplant, you will be taking immunosuppressant, or anti-rejection, medications for the rest of your life to prevent your immune system from targeting your new heart as a "foreigner," and damaging it. Sometimes, the immune cells attack even though you are taking these medications.

Rejection occurs most often in the first six months after transplant. The chance of rejecting your new heart decreases with time, but rejection can occur at any time after transplant. Endomyocardial or cardiac biopsy is the way your transplant team monitors your heart for rejection. Because rejection can occur without any symptoms, cardiac biopsies are performed with regularity in the first year after transplant.
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.

The new heart may be rejected. Rejection is a normal reaction of the body to a foreign object or tissue. When a new heart is transplanted into a recipient's body, the immune system reacts to what it perceives as a threat and attacks the new organ, not realizing that the transplanted heart is beneficial. To allow the transplanted organ to survive in a new body, medications must be taken to trick the immune system into accepting the transplant and not attacking it as a foreign object.

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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.