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Frequently Asked Questions About Heart Transplantation

Why would I need a heart transplant?

There are several situations where a heart transplant may be considered a viable option. These include, but are not limited to:

Very few patients may require a heart-lung transplant.

Am I eligible for a heart transplant?

Before you are determined to be eligible for a heart transplant, you must first undergo medical testing. You will meet with a team of physicians, surgeons and specialists. The evaluation time takes approximately one to two months.

How long will I wait for a new heart?

After being approved for transplant, you will be put on the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) list, which comprises all individuals who are waiting for an organ transplant in the country. How long you must wait for a heart depends on a number of factors, including blood type, immunologic match, body size, and length of time on the list.

It is critical that you work with the transplant team to identify ways to maintain a lifestyle that will provide optimal health before transplantation. Healthier, pre-transplant patients are more likely to have better post-operative experiences.

While you are waiting for a new heart, you may receive an insertable device. A mechanical circulatory support device will help improve your quality of life while monitoring heart problems.

Mechanical Circulatory Support

While you wait for your transplant, you may need to rely on a mechanical circulatory support device, such as a ventricular assist device (VAD). These devices are surgically implanted and use an external power source to replace the pumping function for a failing ventricle.

The Johns Hopkins team was one of the first in the country to use the new, continuous flow left ventricular assist device (LVAD). Through early exposure and use, we have developed both skill and comfort with treating patients with these devices. As the field has grown and sophistication of devices matured, Johns Hopkins has led the way in determining the proper use of the devices.

Your transplant team will work with you to determine if using mechanical circulatory support is the right option for you. Considerations of severity of illness, lifestyle, and transplant options are all factors weighed in this complex decision.

The Latest in Left Ventricular Assist Devices | FAQ with Dr. Ahmet Kilic

Cardiac surgeon Ahmet Kilic answers commonly asked questions about left ventricular assist devices (LVAD) and discusses improvements to LVAD technology and implantation techniques.


What is the surgery like?

Because a heart being transplanted is only viable for a few hours, patients awaiting a heart transplant can be called into the hospital for surgery at any time. Prior to surgery, you will be asked to review and sign an informed consent formHeart transplant surgery typically takes six hours. After surgery, you’ll be placed in the cardiac intensive care unit; eventually you’ll be moved to the transplant unit. The average post heart transplant hospital stay is seven to ten days.

Learn more about cardiac surgery at the Johns Hopkins Heart and Vascular Institute.

For more information on heart transplants, contact us.

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