Heart Surgeries for Older Patients

What is Heart Transplant?

A heart transplant or cardiac transplant is a surgery, an operation in which a person’s failing, diseased heart is replaced with a healthier heart received from a donor. Heart Transplant procedure is usually reserved for people whose condition hasn’t improved enough with medications or other cardiac surgeries.

Why Heart Transplant is Needed?

A heart transplant is the option when other medical or surgical treatments have failed for a patient. A patient needs a heart transplant if his heart is failing and other cardiac treatment procedures are not effective for him. If the heart of a patient is at end-stage heart failure, in which the heart muscle is failing severely and no other treatment is able to revive it, then heart transplant is a must.

How the Patient gets an Organ?

In order to get a heart transplant for the end stage diseased heart, the patient must first be placed on a transplant list. But, before putting the patient on the transplant list, it is required to go through a careful screening process.

A team of heart doctors will review the patient’s medical history, diagnostic test results, social history, and psychological test results to see if the patient will be able to survive the procedure and then comply with the continuous care needed to live a healthy life. If all are convinced that heart transplant is the best option for the patient, than the patient’s name is registered in the wait list for deceased donor transplant through the hospital with state-wide appropriate authority. In the meantime the patient is under constant observation and medication. When the deceased donor heart is available then the patient is immediately called to the hospital.

Organ Donor

Individuals who have recently died or have become brain dead are donors for heart transplant. Here brain death means that the person’s other organs are alive and healthy but the brain has no sign of life. Many times such donors die because of severe head injury, accidents, etc. Donors need to register for organ donation before their time of death. The donor’s family also have to give their consent for the organ donation during the time of the donor’s death.

What Happens During Heart Transplant?

Once a donor heart is made available for the patient, the surgeon from the hospital goes to harvest the donor heart. While being taken to the recipient patient, the donor heart is stored in a special solution to make sure the heart remains in good condition. Once the donor’s heart is available in good condition, then the transplant procedure will take place in the hospital as soon as possible.

During a heart transplant surgery, the patient will be placed on a cardiopulmonary bypass or heart-lung machine. It allows the body to receive oxygen from the blood even though the heart is being operated on.

Cardiac surgeons then remove the patient’s diseased heart and the new heart is sewn into place. Then the surgeon connects the blood vessels to the donated heart, allowing blood to flow through the heart and lungs. As the blood flow is restored the heart warms up and begins beating. In some cases, in order to make the heartbeat properly an electric shock is needed.

Surgeons will again check all the connected blood vessels and heart chambers for any leaks before removing the patient from the heart-lung machine.

Heart transplant is complicated open heart surgery, which may last for 6 to 10 hours.

After surgery if there are no signs of the patient’s body immediately rejecting the organ, patients are allowed to go home within 10 to 16 days.

Risk of Heart Transplant

Heart Transplant is a complicated procedure and may have risks as other severe medical procedures.

Apart from the risk involved due to open heart surgery infection few other risks are:

  • Potential risks of a heart transplant may include: Rejection of the donor heart
  • Excessive bleeding during or after the surgery
  • Blood clots that can cause heart attack, stroke, or lung problem.
  • Primary graft failure. Problems with arteries.

Care after Heart Transplant

After having a successful heart transplant procedure, people enjoy a good quality of life. Depending on the condition, one may be able to resume daily life activities, such as returning to work, participating in hobbies and sports, and exercising.

After your heart transplant, you will have to adjust to a heart healthy diet. It is a must to keep the heart healthy and functioning well. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can help you avoid complications such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

In order to improve your overall physical and mental health make exercise and physical activity a regular part of your life. Regular Follow up with the doctor is a must.