February is American Heart Month to raise awareness about heart disease which is the number one leading cause of death in the United States. One of the consequences of heart disease is congestive heart failure (CHF). End-stage congestive heart failure can lead to a need for a heart transplant.
Causes of End-stage Heart Failure
End-stage heart failure may be caused by conditions such as:
- Coronary heart disease
- Viral infections
- Hereditary conditions
Heart and Lung Transplant
Rarely, a heart transplant may be performed at the same time as a lung transplant in patients who have severe conditions of both heart and lung disease.
Man has the Same Heart from a Transplant for 33 Years
The Cleveland Clinic has published an amazing post about a man, Rick Rideout, who has had the same heart from a transplant for 33 years. In 1985, when he was only 26, Rideout was found to need a heart transplant. Fortunately, for him a suitable heart for a transplant was found within a few months. At that time he was informed that he had a 60% chance of living for another five years. However, the transplant succeeded and Rideout, who is now age 60, has become the second longest-living heart transplant survivor from Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Jerry Estep of the Cleveland Clinic says that there is some evidence that shows that if someone is young in age at the time of the transplant it is more likely to succeed. Moreover, Dr. Estep claims that Rideout did everything that one is supposed to do in order for a heart transplant to succeed. Rideout also had a very positive mental outlook. Rideout said that you have to live life and not just sit around and do nothing. He also managed to overcome some hurdles due to the anti-rejection medicine he had to take to prevent his body from rejecting his transplanted heart. He developed skin cancer and kidney failure. Fortunately, his wife was able to donate a kidney for him and so he also underwent a kidney transplant.
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), a heart transplant involves removing a diseased and damaged heart and replacing it with a healthy heart received from a deceased donor. A heart transplant can improve the quality of life and lead to a longer life.
The National Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network
If you are found to be in need of a heart transplant and are living in the United States, you will be placed on the waiting list of the National Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Once a match is found you will need to have the heart transplant surgery right away in a hospital.
Heart Transplant Surgery Procedure
The procedure for heart transplant surgery requires general anesthesia where you will be unconscious. Medicine will be delivered through an intravenous (IV) line in your arm. Breathing will be helped by being connected to a ventilator.
The surgeon will open your chest and connect the arteries and veins of your heart to a heart-lung bypass machine. The diseased heart will be removed. The arteries and veins will then be taken off the bypass machine and reconnected to the healthy donor heart. The heart transplant is complete after the surgeon closes your chest.
Recovery after the surgery is in the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU). You will remain in the hospital for up to three weeks. You will also learn how to recognize the the signs of heart transplant rejection and infection. For the first three months after leaving the hospital, you will go back for tests to check for infection or rejection of your new heart. The function of your heart will also be tested to make certain that you are recovering well. By the time you leave the hospital, you will learn how to monitor your overall health such as:
- Monitor your weight
- Blood pressure
Reducing the Risk of Infection
It is very important to take steps to reduce the risk for infection such as:
- Practicing good hygiene
- Getting routine vaccines
- Making healthy lifestyle choices
- Regular dental care is also important. Your doctor or dentist may prescribe antibiotics before any dental work to prevent infection. It is crucial to follow your doctor’s advice so that you will recover and remain as healthy as possible.
Serious Risks from Heart Transplants
There are serious risks from heart transplants such as:
- The donor heart fails and cannot function and this is the major cause of death during the first month after the transplant.
- The immune system may reject the heart and this is most likely in the first six months after the transplant. In order to prevent rejection, anti-rejection medication must be taken for the rest of your life. However, these medicines can damage the immune system and lead to a higher risk for cancer, diabetes, kidney damage and osteoporosis.
- Cardiac allograft vasculopathy is an aggressive type of atherosclerosis and is a common and serious complication from a heart transplant. This can rapidly block the heart’s arteries and cause the donor heart to fail.
Another Heart Transplant
Some patients who have a heart transplant that fails may be eligible for another transplant.
Cardiac Rehabilitation Program
During your recovery, you may start a cardiac rehabilitation program. See our blog post from July 11, 2019 about how cardiac rehabilitation (CR) can ad up to five years to your life.
Cardiac Rehabilitation and HeartSMART Program at Park Crescent Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center
The Park Crescent Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in East Orange, New Jersey has an excellent cardiac rehabilitation program and a state-of-the-art gym. This expert cardiac rehabilitation is combined with healthy fine dining under the guidance of a registered dietitian.
It is good to know that a heart transplant can ad years of life to a person with heart failure.