What is a heart transplant?
A heart transplant occurs when a person’s damaged heart is surgically replaced with a healthy donor heart. A deceased individual whose family has decided to donate their loved one’s organs is referred to as a donor. A heart transplant is a procedure that involves removing a person’s diseased heart and replacing it with a healthy heart from an organ donor. Two or more healthcare providers must declare the donor brain-dead before the heart can be removed from the donor. A healthcare physician must determine that a heart transplant is the best treatment option for your heart failure before you may be placed on a waiting list. Healthcare staff also ensures that you are in healthy conditions to undergo the transplant procedure.
Heart failure is a condition in which the heart does not work as it should. Blood is required by your complete body to carry out all of its activities. When blood flow becomes insufficient as a result of the heart’s inability to efficiently pump blood, disruption ensues, making your heart weak. Heart failure can damage either or both sides of your heart at the same time.
Risks of a heart transplant
Complications are possible with any surgery. The following are some of the possible dangers of a heart transplant:
- Bleeding before, during, or after operation.
- Heart attacks, strokes, and lung issues can all be caused by blood clots.
- Breathing difficulties.
- Failure of the kidneys.
- Allograft vasculopathy in the coronary arteries (CAV). This is an issue with the blood arteries that transport blood to the heart muscle. They thicken and harden. This can result in irreversible cardiac muscle damage.
- The donor heart’s failure.
What happens during a heart transplant?
A heart transplant involves open-heart surgery and a hospital stay. Procedures may differ depending on your situation and the expertise of your healthcare practitioner.
- You’ll be instructed to take off any jewellery or other items that might get in the middle of the operation.
- You’ll get dressed in a hospital gown.
- An intravenous (IV) line will be inserted in your hand or arm so that drugs and IV fluids can be injected. Additional catheters will be inserted into blood arteries in your neck and wrist to monitor your heart and blood pressure as well as collect blood samples. Additional catheters can be inserted beneath the collarbone and in the pelvis region.
- To drain urine, a soft, flexible tube (Foley catheter) will be inserted into your bladder.
- To drain stomach fluids, a tube will be inserted into your mouth or nose and into your stomach.
- If you have a lot of hair on your chest, you may need to shave it.
- The surgery for a heart transplant will be performed while you are fast asleep (under general anesthesia). Once you are unconscious, a breathing tube will be inserted into your lungs through your mouth. During the surgery, the tube will be connected to a machine (ventilator) that will breathe for you.
- During surgery, the anesthesiologist will monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, and blood oxygen level.
- An antiseptic solution will be used to clean the skin on your chest.
- From just below the Adam’s apple to just above the navel, the surgeon will create an incision down the centre of your chest.
- The breastbone (sternum) will be sliced in half by the surgeon. To reach your heart, he or she will detach the two pieces of your breastbone and spread them apart.
- While your heart is stopped and replaced, the surgeon will insert tubes into your chest to allow blood to be pumped through your body by a heart-lung (cardiopulmonary bypass) system.
- Your doctor will remove the damaged heart once the blood has been entirely diverted into the bypass machine and is being pumped by the machine.
- The donor heart will be put into place by the surgeon. He or she will carefully join the blood vessels once your new heart is in place to ensure there are no leaks.
- The blood circulating via the bypass machine will be allowed back into the heart once your new heart is properly linked, and the tubes to the machine will be removed. To restart the heartbeat, your surgeon will shock the heart with small paddles.
- Once your new heart begins to beat, your healthcare team will monitor it to see how it functions and for any leaks.
- Pacing wires can be inserted into the heart. During the early recovery period, your surgeon can connect these wires to a pacemaker outside your body for a short time to help pace your new heart.
- The sternum will be reattached and sewn together with thin wires by the surgeon.
- The skin over the sternum will be sewn back together by the surgeon. To close the incision, he or she will use sutures or surgical staples.
Is heart transplant possible?
Yes, heart transplant is very much possible. Though not every transplant is successful. Not all heart transplants are successful, and in rare cases, even after a successful transplant, the new healthy heart may fail. Even with immunosuppressants, your body may reject the new heart altogether, or you may acquire conditions like coronary artery disease, which can lead to heart failure.