Heart Transplantation

Introduction

Organ transplants offer individuals facing serious disability and death the opportunity to lead more fully-functioning lives. Over 19,000 organ transplants are performed in the United States each year. The kidney was the first organ to be successfully transplanted in humans. Today, transplantation is performed with kidneys, liver, the pancreas, lungs, the heart, intestines, bone marrow and bones, corneas, skin, saphenous veins, and valves of the heart.

Cardiac transplantation is the surgical placement of a healthy heart from a human donor into the body of a person whose own heart is badly diseased. The procedure is also referred to as orthotopic cardiac graft.

A heart transplant is performed when congestive heart failure or heart injury can't be treated by any other medical or surgical means. It's reserved for those individuals with a high risk of dying from heart disease within one or two years. Most patients who undergo a transplant have one of two problems. One is irreversible damage to the heart caused by coronary artery disease, commonly called "hardening of the arteries," and multiple heart attacks. The other problem is cardiomyopathy, or heart muscle disease. In this condition, the heart cannot contract normally because of damage to the muscle cells. It may have been caused by bacterial or viral infection or hereditary factors. Occasionally, heart transplants are performed on people with other forms of heart disease. These might include the effects of rheumatic fever or hypertension (high blood pressure), abnormalities in the heart valves that cause damage to the heart muscle, congenital heart defects, those structural abnormalities present at birth, or rare conditions like heart tumors.