Heart Transplant Programme
When does one need a heart transplant?
Heart transplant means replacing one’s diseased heart with a healthy donated heart. An extremely complicated procedure, is suggested only when the heart failure is so severe that it cannot be managed with medication or any other mode of treatment.
Cardiac care has evolved phenomenally in the recent times, enabling us to treat complex heart problems effectively - medically and surgically. However, if the condition of the heart is such that no medications or surgical solution can bring any sort of relief, we have no choice but choose heart transplant as the way ahead.
Heart transplant is done in both adults and children; and Aster Centre of Excellence in Multi-Organ Transplant has a great team of doctors comprising adult and paediatric transplant experts.M
What leads to the need for heart transplant in children?
Children and infants are also highly susceptible to heart disease and might require heart transplant due to severe cardiomyopathy (weak heart muscles) and congenital heart disease that cannot be medically managed. Some children who have already undergone corrective cardiac surgeries might also require heart transplant due to re-occurrence of problems (continued cardiac problems).
What all do you need to do before a heart transplant?
If your doctor recommends a heart transplant, there are many formalities and tests you will need to complete before you undergo the surgery. You will need to go through an extensive screening process involving Radiological and Pathological Investigations. Our transplant team comprising Cardiac Surgeons, Cardiologists, Cardiac Anaesthesiologists, Pulmonologists and Pathologists will thoroughly review your reports to ensure that you’re medical fit for the surgery. We will then enlist you on the Heart Transplant List till we get notified of a suitable donor. Remember, waiting for a heart transplant might be a long drawn one for getting a donor – a suitable donor – is not easy. We will continuously monitor your health during this waiting period through regular check-ups and investigations. As soon as we get information that there is a donor heart available, we will contact you and if all factors are favourable, the transplant will be performed.
Who gives you your new heart?
The donor from whom you get a new heart is usually someone who would have signed up for organ donation before he or she died.
The heart is surgically removed, with the full consent of the donor’s family, once the donor is certified brain-dead.
The availability of donor organs are informed through an organ sharing network and the recipient is chosen based on the best possible match – with respect to the blood type, body type, recipient’s medical condition, and the waiting period.
The religion/ race/ gender of the donor or the recipient does not matter (in any organ transplant for that matter) while determining the match.
All donors are mandatorily screened for Hepatitis B and C and for HIV.
When it comes to paediatric heart transplants, we make sure that your child gets the best care possible. Our team of experts comprises Paediatric Cardiac Surgeons and Paediatric Interventional Cardiologists with decades of experience to their credit. We have specialised, state-of-the-art facilities for this programme including a Level 3 PICU that’s managed by internationally trained paediatric intensivists.
Waiting for a heart can be quite distressful, but if everything goes well, it’s definitely a second chance at life.
How is the heart transplant done?
Once a donor heart becomes available and all other factors are ascertained favourable, our entire transplant team gets ready for the surgery.
Our transplant surgeon will remove the diseased heart of the patient, except the back walls of the atria - the heart’s upper chambers.
The backs of the atria of the donated heart are opened and sewn into place; and blood vessels are connected, allowing the blood to flow to the heart and lungs. As the heart warms up, it starts beating.
You’ll be able to sit up and walk within a few days after the surgery, and if there are no signs of organ rejection, you can go home in probably about two weeks.
What are the possible post-surgery complications?
The two major complications that can arise after a heart transplant surgery are infection and rejection.
Rejection occurs when your body’s immune system fails to recognise the transplanted heart and tries to destroy it. We will put you on immunosuppressants to minimise this risk. You might also be required to undergo a procedure called Myocardial Biopsy at prescribed intervals to check for signs of rejection.
Infections can occur post surgery, posing a threat to life. However, we have the most advanced infectious diseases and infection control wing, which include facilities like the HEPA Filter that purifies the air to 0.3 microns.
There’s also a possibility of coronary artery disease in patients who’ve received transplant. This is a life-threating condition because most of them feel no symptoms such as angina (chest pain) as they have no sensation in their new hearts.
You should seek immediate medical help if you notice symptoms like fever, chills, aches, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, chest pain or tenderness, unexplained fatigue, spike in blood pressure, persistent cough, white patches in your mouth or tongue, foul-smelling urine, nasal congestion and diarrhea.
Post-surgery care is extremely crucial and you have to take up the responsibility of your own health and wellbeing.
Make sure you take your medications on time. And remember that these medications must be taken for life.
Exercise - we encourage heart transplant recipients to increase physical activity to improve the functions of the heart and avoid weight gain. However, you’ll need to take the advice of your Cardiologist and Rehabilitation Therapist before you start on your regime.
We’ll give you specific instructions on what you should eat and what you should not. A low-fat, low-sodium diet will decrease the risk of heart diseases, high blood pressure and fluid retention.
Remember, how you recover, how well you recover and how quickly you recover depend on many factors including your age, general health and your response to the transplant.
Patients, especially children will need to be monitored all their life to ensure nothing is wrong. Fortunately, according to worldwide statistics, almost 85% heart transplant recipients get back to their normal life within a reasonable time.
The most important of all are regular check-ups. Missing even one means you are neglecting your health. So visit your doctor at regular intervals, get your investigations done on time and lead a healthy lifestyle. It’s a second chance at life, make sure you live it well.