Heart transplantation is a remarkable procedure. One team of surgeons opens the recipient’s chest in the manner of any open-heart surgery. The patient is connected to artificial heart and lung equipment that keeps the blood circulating and the lungs working during the operation. Then the patient’s diseased heart is surgically removed.
Meanwhile, at the donor’s hospital (which may be many miles away), other surgeons remove the donor’s heart and store it in a cold chemical solution to keep the tissue healthy. The donor heart is then brought as quickly as possible to the recipient in the operating room. Once the donor heart is delivered to the operating room, surgeons sew the heart into place and connect it with the recipient’s blood vessels. As blood begins to flow, the heart warms up and begins to beat, sometimes with the aid of an electrical shock. The connections are checked for leaks. If all is well, the heart-lung machine is removed.
Upon completion of the surgery, you will be taken to the Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU-B) and closely monitored for complications.
You will be on a ventilator (breathing tube), with multiple intravenous access devices and monitoring devices along with medications to support the heart. Usually, you will be removed from the ventilator and out of bed within 24-48 hours postoperation.
Transplant education is started within a few days with you and your support team. For more in depth information refer to the “Heart Handbook” provided by the International Transplant Nurses Society
SURGERY TIME: Entire surgical process usually takes 4 to 8 hours. These are average times, and delays are common.
TIME IN THE HOSPITAL: 7 to 12 day
Will your new heart work right away?
Most hearts work immediately. Sometimes in rare situations, there is a delay and the heart may need additional mechanical support to come from the operating room. This is usually temporary and takes a few days to get stronger. During this time you will remain in the ICU and be observed very closely.