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Heart Transplant: Risks & Life Expectancy

A heart transplant surgery is a procedure which involves replacing a patient’s diseased heart with a recently deceased donor’s heart. The procedure qualifies to be a major surgery and takes several hours in which the surgeon removes the patient’s original diseased, heart while keeping him/ her on a heart-lung machine to keep the blood flowing through the body. The donated heart is then fitted into place to complete the process.

The Need for a Transplant

A heart transplant may be advised for a number of reasons including:

  1. The patient is at the end stage heart disease or Heart failure.
  2. The life of the patient is less than a year with his/ her current heart and a heart transplant is his only chance to survive.
  3. The patient has no other disease that can reduce his lifespan except for a diseased heart.
  4. Firm beliefs of the doctor, that the patient can lead a better quality life, post the transplant.

Risks of a Heart Transplant

The primary risk that a heart transplant patient is exposed to is a rejection of the transplanted heart by his/ her body. The patient is prescribed immunosuppressant drugs like steroids to suppress his/ her immune system against the rejection of the donated organ. This essentially leads to risks of contracting infections and can even lead to cancer. The risk of artery-clogging is also increased. In fact, the rejections could lead to death as well.

Life after Surgery

Patients who have undergone a heart transplant have to spend anywhere between 1 – 2 weeks in the hospital which could also increase if the patient has surgery complications. This stay is commonly referred to as the ‘Cardiac Rehabilitation Program’ where the patient is kept under constant monitoring to check if the body is rejecting the replaced heart.

Life Expectancy

Heart transplant surgeries can be quite successful if the donors are selected carefully and the procedures well performed. A renowned heart specialist in Delhi states that out of 100 people who undergo heart transplants, about 87 survive for over a year and over 50 for 10 years.

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