Sometimes, a patient with a heart disease that cannot be treated with the help of medications or any other procedure is recommended to undergo a cardiac transplant. In a heart transplant surgery, the damaged or diseased heart is replaced with a heart retrieved from a deceased donor. Sometimes, this procedure is conducted along with lung replacement, a procedure known as a heart-lung transplant.
When is it performed?
A damaged or diseased heart is not able to perform the blood-pumping function effectively. This may lead to fatal cardiac events. Adults can suffer from heart failure due to coronary artery disease, congenital heart defect, cardiomyopathy or failing heart muscle, heart valve disorder, amyloidoses, ventricular arrhythmias, or recurring episodes of heart rhythm abnormality. All such patients are recommended to undergo a heart transplant when all other treatments fail to work.
How is it performed?
The patient is given general anaesthesia prior to the procedure. Usually, heart transplant takes five to six hours and it is an open heart surgery. The medical professionals connect the patient to a heart-lung bypass machine so that oxygen-rich blood continues to flow through the body. During the surgery, an incision is made in the chest, after which the sternum is separated and the rib cage is opened. Then, the diseased heart is removed and replaced with the donated heart. The blood vessels are attached to the donor’s heart. The patient is removed from the heart-lung bypass machine after the donated heart starts to pump blood effectively.
The patient is kept in the intensive care unit (ICU) for a few days, after which arrangements are made for a hospital stay in a regular inpatient ward. Even after you are discharged from the hospital, you will need to visit your doctor for biopsies to ascertain if the body is rejecting the new heart. The intake of a nutritious diet is extremely important after a heart transplant to give the body much-needed nourishment. Also, maintaining an exercise regime for improving your overall body functioning is advised. It may take several months to recover from the surgery.