A heart transplant involves replacing a diseased heart with a donor’s healthy heart. A heart transplant is considered when heart failure is so severe that it does not respond to any other therapy. The healthy heart comes from a donor who has died. It is the last resort for people with heart failure when all other treatments have failed. The heart failure might have been caused by coronary heart disease, damaged heart valves or heart muscles, congenital heart defects, or viral infections of the heart.
Heart Failure is a condition when the pumping action of the heart is unable to supply the needs of the body. Once the heart starts malfunctioning, in time other organs deprived of a good circulation will start getting damaged as well. The lungs, kidneys, brain and liver are particularly vulnerable. Advanced heart failure has a 70-80% chance of death if untreated.
Causes of Heart Failure
- Viral infections of the heart [myocarditis]
- Post heart attack
- Narrowed valves or cardiomyopathies , etc
Diagnosis of Heart Failure
There are 2 very simple tests done – an echocardiogram and a blood test called NT-pro BNP (a hormone that rises in the blood as a response to a failing heart). Heart failure is not invariably fatal but in few cases might need intervention .Most patients will require nothing more than medications, life style changes and close monitoring to ensure they are stable. There are many new innovations in the treatment of heart failure, from new drugs to pacemakers and new surgical therapies. In patients with severe heart failure that is unresponsive to therapy, treatment options fall into 2 categories – support with an artificial heart or replace with another heart (heart transplant).
How is a heart transplant performed?
Once a donor heart becomes available, a surgeon surgically removes the heart from the donor’s body. The heart is cooled and stored in a special solution. The transplant surgery is performed at the earliest, after the donor heart becomes available. During the surgery, the patient is placed on a heart-lung machine. This machine allows the body to receive vital oxygen and nutrients from the blood even though the heart is being operated on. Surgeons then remove the patient’s heart except for the back walls of the atria, the heart’s upper chambers. The back of the new heart is opened at the left upper chamber, which is connected to the corresponding remnant of the recipient. The 2 large veins of the right side – the venae cavae are connected independently.
Surgeons then connect the blood vessels, allowing blood to flow through the heart and lungs. As the heart warms up, it begins beating. Surgeons check all the connected blood vessels and heart chambers for leaks before removing the patient from the heart-lung machine. It is a complex procedure that lasts from 4 to 10 hours.
Risks associated with Heart Transplants
The most common causes of death following a transplant are infection and rejection. With the exception of having to take lifelong medication to keep the body from rejecting the new heart, many heart transplant recipients lead a long and productive life.
Life After Heart Transplant
With the exception of having to take life-long medication to keep the body from rejecting the donated heart, many heart transplant recipients lead active and productive lives.
Medications. As mentioned, after a heart transplant, patients must take several drugs. The most important are those to keep the body from rejecting the transplant. These drugs, which must be taken for life, can cause significant side effects, including high blood pressure, fluid retention, excessive hair growth, osteoporosis, and possible kidney damage. To combat these problems, additional drugs are often prescribed.
Exercise. Heart transplant recipients can exercise and are encouraged to exercise to improve the function of the heart and to avoid weight gain. However, due to changes in the heart related to the transplant, patients should speak to their doctor or cardiac rehabilitation specialist before beginning an exercise program.
Diet. After a heart transplant, the patient may need to follow a special diet, which may involve many of the same dietary changes made prior to surgery. A low-sodium diet will decrease the risk of high blood pressure and fluid retention. Your doctor will discuss your specific dietary needs, and a registered dietician can help you understand specific dietary guidelines.
How Long Can a Person Live After a Heart Transplant?
It depends on many factors, including age, general health, and response to the transplant.
Finding a Heart Donor
Donors for heart transplants are individuals who may have recently died or become brain dead, which means that although their body is being kept alive by machines, the brain has no sign of life. Many times, these donors died as a result of a car accident, severe head injury, or a gunshot wound.
Donors generally give their permission for organ donation before their death. The donor’s family must also give consent for organ donation at the time of the donor’s death.
India is becoming the most preferred healthcare destination globally.
The superlative medical treatment provided by the skilled doctors in world-class infrastructure at nearly one third the cost compared to Western Europe, North America and some Southeast Asian countries adds up to India’s credentials.
Improved coordination between donation, retrieval and transplantation has led to a 10-fold increase in heart transplantations in India
Heart Transplant in India is performed through cutting- edge clinical solutions, research, extraordinary patient care and infrastructure of world-class standards. Heart Transplant is a complex surgical exercise and needs highly skilled consultants, ingenious technical staff and advanced technology working with perfect harmony, enormous dedication and team work. India offers a one stop solution for all those seeking critical procedures such as Heart Transplant.