Heart Transplantation | Loyola Medicine

Heart Transplantation

What You Can Expect with Heart Transplant Surgery

Heart transplant surgery is extensive and can be a difficult process. If you are waiting for a heart transplant, Loyola offers a heart pump, called a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) to help with your condition prior to transplant. 

Once you have been approved for a heart transplant and a donor heart has been identified, your transplant surgery can take place. Your transplant surgery may follow these steps: 

  • You are made comfortable with general anesthesia and a cut is made through the breastbone.
  • Your blood flows through a heart-lung bypass machine while the surgeon works on your heart. This machine does the work of your heart while your heart is stopped, and supplies your body with blood and oxygen.
  • Your diseased heart is removed and the donor heart is stitched in place. The heart-lung machine is then disconnected. Blood flows through the transplanted heart.
  • Tubes are inserted to drain air, fluid and blood out of the chest for several days, and to allow the lungs to fully re-expand.
  • In some cases, the surgeon will not remove the old heart, but will put the new heart on top of it (heterotopic transplant).

Nationally Recognized Heart Transplant Program

Loyola Medicine is nationally recognized for its superior heart transplant program. Performing one of the largest volumes of heart transplants in Illinois, Loyola’s patients are cared for by one of the most experienced and successful multidisciplinary heart transplant teams in the area, including cardiologists, surgeons, LVAD nurse coordinators, heart failure nurse coordinators, nurse practitioners, physical therapists, pharmacists, social workers, psychologists, dietitians and financial counselors.

A heart transplant, also called cardiac transplant or heart transplantation, is surgery to remove a damaged or diseased heart and replace it with a healthy donor heart. Heart transplantation is an extensive process and includes a detailed evaluation, a search for a donor heart, an operation and a recovery period. 

Heart transplantation may be a life-saving treatment for individuals with end-stage heart failure. It is an extensive surgery most often used when other medications and surgical procedures do not work to treat your condition. The procedure may be performed to treat:

Why Choose Loyola for Heart Transplant?

Among heart transplant patients, Loyola’s one-year patient survival rate is higher than both the national rate and the rates of other Chicago-area heart transplant centers, according to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients.

What Are the Risks of Heart Transplant Surgery?

Transplant surgery risks include:

  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Coronary artery disease related to cardiac allograft vasculopathy
  • Damage to the kidneys, liver, or other organs from immunosuppression medications used to prevent transplant rejection
  • Development of cancer from the drugs used to prevent transplant rejection
  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Heart rhythm problems
  • High cholesterol levels, diabetes, and bone thinning from the use of medications used to prevent transplant rejection
  • Heart transplant failure
  • Increased risk for infections due to immunosuppression medications used to prevent transplant rejection
  • Reactions to medications
  • Transplant rejection
  • Wound infections