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Heart Transplant: Risks & Life Expectancy

Heart diseases are on the rise. Among the numerous cardiac conditions, heart failure, heart attack, and stroke are the top concerns of this era. However, innovations in the medical field have increased the chances of survival for those suffering from heart ailments. A heart transplant is one such procedure that has helped innumerable patients overcome fatal conditions.

A heart transplant surgery is a medical procedure that involves replacing a patient’s diseased heart with a recently deceased donor’s heart. It is a surgical procedure performed by experienced medical professionals. The procedure qualifies to be major surgery and takes several hours.

In this procedure, a surgeon removes the patient’s, original diseased heart. While the surgery is performed, the patient is kept on the support of a heart-lung machine. This machine allows keeping the blood flowing through the body. The donated healthy heart is then fitted into its place to complete the process.

The Need for a Transplant

A cardiologist will determine and evaluate your condition. Based on your symptoms, he/she may ask you to have the operation. The surgery is performed by a cardiac surgeon. A patient would be recommended a heart transplant based on the following factors.

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

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

Risks of a Heart Transplant

If performed by a skilled medical expert, a heart transplant is a major yet safe surgery. The advanced technologies used by surgeons consider patient care and safety as chief concerns.

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.

Some other common risks associated with heart transplant are:

  • Bleeding during or after surgery
  • Development of blood clots
  • Difficult in breathing
  • Kidney Failure

Life after Surgery

A heart transplant has been proven as an efficient method to treat end-stage heart diseases. Despite the risks involved in a heart transplant, the success rates of the procedure are laudable.

There are certain precautions that a patient would need to maintain post surgery. You can expect the following to happen after undergoing heart transplant surgery.

  • Patients who have undergone a heart transplant have to spend anywhere between 1 – 2 weeks in the hospital. This time period may 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.
  • Post the hospital stay, you should keep the surgery site clean. The nursing staff will give you instructions about the same.
  • You should avoid indulging in any rough physical activity that may exhaust you.
  • You will be called to the hospital for follow-up visits.
  • You are expected to protect your heart health by making mandatory lifestyle changes.

Life Expectancy

Heart transplant surgeries can be quite successful if the donors are selected carefully and the procedures well performed. This process can be a little lengthy and overwhelming for a patient. Your medical team will assist you throughout the journey.

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.

Related read: Understanding Heart Transplant

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