What does a heart transplant evaluation involve?

Once patients are identified as potential heart transplant candidates, they undergo several days of tests and consults. The heart transplant team will then review and discuss the results to determine if the patient should be listed for transplant surgery. The testing includes, but is not limited to:

  • Blood tests: To give us information about your blood sugar and cholesterol levels as well as your kidney and liver function. Other tests will tell us if you have been exposed to certain viruses, such as cytomegalovirus, or CMV, and Epstein-Barr virus, or EBV. Blood work also will be done to determine your blood type and the percentage of antibodies in your blood.
  • A chest X-ray: To evaluate the size of your heart and potential problems with your lungs.
  • A urine test: To evaluate kidney function and to determine if alcohol and drugs are in your system.
  • An electrocardiogram (EKG): To evaluate your heart rate and rhythm.
  • An echocardiogram: To evaluate your heart size, shape, thickness and motion. It also tells us how well your heart valves function.
  • A cardiopulmonary stress test (CPX): To evaluate how your heart, lungs and large muscles of your arms and legs respond to exercise. This test tells us how heart failure has affected your ability to exercise.
  • A right-heart catheterization: To record the blood pressures in your heart and lungs.
  • A left-heart catheterization or coronary angiogram: To evaluate the blood vessels in your heart.
  • A CT scan of your chest, abdomen and pelvis: To determine if there is disease in your lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas, bowel or reproductive organs.
  • A pulmonary function test: If you have a history of smoking, asthma or lung disease, or if you are older than 50, this test will evaluate the function of your lungs by measuring how much air you can breathe in and out.
  • A carotid Doppler study: To measure blood flow in the large arteries in the neck leading to the brain. Poor blood flow in the carotid artery increases the risk of stroke. 
  • An ankle-brachial index (ABI) test: If you have a history of poor circulation in your legs, diabetes or coronary artery disease, or if you are older than 50.
  • A bone density test (DEXA): To evaluate whether you have osteoporosis (bone mass loss).
  • A colonoscopy: If you are 50 years old or older and have not had a recent colonoscopy to screen for malignancy.
  • A mammogram: For all women 40 years old or older if not done in the last year to screen for malignancy.
  • A Pap smear: For all women if not done in the last year to screen for malignancy.
  • An eye exam: If you have diabetes or are older than 50.
  • A dental exam is needed for all patients to rule out infection.
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