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What is a heart transplant?

A heart transplant is a surgery that replaces a damaged or diseased heart with a healthy donor heart. It is a treatment for end-stage heart failure and other severe heart conditions. Heart transplantation is a life-saving surgery used when all other medical and surgical options have failed. 

The most common type of heart transplant is an orthotopic heart transplant, in which the original heart is removed and replaced with a donor heart. A heterotopic heart transplant involves sewing a donor heart next to the original heart.

A heart transplant is a major surgery with significant risks and potential complications. You may have less invasive treatment options. Consider getting a second opinion about all your treatment choices before having a heart transplant. 

Other procedures that may be performed

Your doctor may perform other procedures in addition to a heart transplant. Diseases that cause serious damage to the heart can also cause serious damage to other organs. These include the kidney, lung and liver. For example, cystic fibrosis can damage both the heart and the lungs. 

Some patients may need another organ transplant in addition to a heart transplant. Your doctor will determine your eligibility for combination transplant surgery.

Combination transplant surgeries are rare but can include:

  • Kidney transplant replaces a diseased or damaged kidney with a donor kidney.

  • Liver transplant replaces a diseased or damaged liver with a donor liver.

  • Lung transplant replaces a diseased or damaged lung with a donor lung. 

Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: Jul 12, 2013

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Medical References

  1. Getting a New Heart. American Society of Transplantation. http://www.a-s-t.org/files/pdf/patient_education/english/2AMS010011heart.pdf
  2. Heart Failure. BetterMedicine. http://www.bettermedicine.com/topic/heart-failure/
  3. Heart Transplant. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/CongenitalHeartDefects/CareTreatmentforCongenitalHeartDefec...
  4. Heart Transplant. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/ht/ht_whatis.html.
  5. Pile, JC. Evaluating postoperative fever: A focused approach. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. 2006;73 (Suppl 1):S62. http://ccjm.org/content/73/Suppl_1/S62.full.pdf

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