A heart transplant treats irreversible heart failure when other treatment options fail. Heart transplants are performed for several types of cardiac illness, including severe coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy (an illness that damages the heart muscle), congenital heart disease, irreparably damaged heart valves and a second transplant after a first heart transplant fails.
A nurse will insert an intravenous (IV) line into a vein in your arm to deliver fluids and medications, and you will be given anesthesia to make you unconscious. After your surgeon inspects the donor heart to confirm that it looks healthy and suitable for transplantation, he or she will make a large incision in the middle of your chest. You will be placed on a heart-lung machine, which pumps your blood during surgery.
The surgeons removes your failing heart, then positions the donor heart in your chest and sutures (sews) it in place. Your new heart was cooled to preserve it before transplantation. As it warms up to room temperature, it might begin to beat on its own. If not, the surgeon may trigger your heart to start beating with an electric shock. Once your new heart pumps steadily without leaks, the surgical team disconnects you from the heart-lung machine and stitches your chest closed. You are then taken to the intensive care unit for monitoring.
After 2 or 3 days in the intensive care unit, you can move to a private room. You will continue to be monitored, and will get daily blood tests and echocardiograms until you are stable enough to go home. The total hospital stay is usually 10 to 14 days.
Most of the heart transplants are success and patients enjoy a high quality of life. They can return to work within three to six months of a heart transplant and can do everyday chores without many restrictions.
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