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What is Heart Transplant?

A heart transplant is a surgery in which your heart is replaced with a donated heart from another person. Heart transplantation is typically reserved for patients whose condition has not improved sufficiently with medications or other surgical procedures. Because donor hearts are in short supply, you must also meet stringent criteria to be considered for this type of transplant.

Why Heart transplant is performed?

When other treatments for heart problems have failed, resulting in heart failure, a heart transplant is performed.

The following conditions may eventually necessitate a heart transplant:

  • Coronary heart disease – A buildup of fatty substances in the arteries that supply the heart, causing blood flow to the heart to be blocked or interrupted
  • Cardiomyopathy – Where the heart’s walls have become stretched, thickened, or stiff
  • Congenital heart disease – Birth defects that interfere with the normal functioning of the heart
  • Failures in the heart’s valves.
  • Dangerous recurring abnormal heart rhythms (ventricular arrhythmias) that are not controlled by other treatments

A heart transplant, on the other hand, is not for everyone and you may not be a good candidate for a heart transplant if you have:

  • Are of an advanced age that would make it difficult to recover from transplant surgery
  • Have another medical condition that, regardless of receiving a donor heart, could shorten your life, such as serious kidney, liver, or lung disease
  • Have a current infection
  • Have a recent personal cancer medical history
  • Are unwilling or unable to make the necessary lifestyle changes to keep your donor heart healthy, such as abstaining from recreational drugs, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol consumption

Risk associated with Heart transplant?

Aside from the risks of open-heart surgery, such as bleeding, infection, and blood clots, the risks of a heart transplant include:

Rejection of the donated heart– One of the most concerning risks following a heart transplant is that your body will reject the donor heart. The immune system recognizes and attacks the transplanted heart as foreign. Every heart transplant recipient is given anti-rejection medication (immunosuppressants), and as a result, the rate of organ rejection continues to fall.

Failure of the primary graft- The donor heart does not function in this condition, which is the most common cause of death in the first few months after transplant.

Having arterial problems- Following your transplant, the walls of your heart’s arteries may thicken and harden, resulting in cardiac allograft vasculopathy. This can hinder blood flow through your heart, resulting in a heart attack, heart failure, heart arrhythmias, or sudden cardiac death.

Side effects of medication– Immunosuppressant medication side effects include increased susceptibility to infections, weight gain, and kidney problems.

What can you expect prior to the Heart transplant procedure?

The following events occur prior to your heart transplant surgery:

  • Recommendation to a transplant program- To start the process, your doctor must refer you to a heart transplant program. Then you can schedule your evaluation.
  • Evaluation of a transplant- There aren’t enough heart donors available to help everyone who needs one. As a result, the evaluation ensures that you have the best chance of benefiting from one in the long run. There are several components to your transplant evaluation.
  • Inclusion on the waiting list- If the screenings and evaluations reveal that you are a good candidate, transplant list coordinators will add you to the waiting list. The list prioritizes people based on their current health status and the length of time they’ve been waiting. The higher on the list you are, the more urgently you require a heart.
  • Bridge treatment- Bridge treatments are therapies, medications, or other types of care that aid in your recovery while you await a transplant. These treatments assist you in having fewer and milder symptoms.

What experiences you encounter during a Heart transplant procedure?

A heart transplant is a difficult procedure. The following procedures will be carried out by your care team:

  • Provide you with general anesthesia- A heart transplant is always performed under general anesthesia, which puts you to sleep.
  • Connect a ventilator to you– While you’re sleeping, your provider inserts a tube down your throat and connects the other end to a machine called a ventilator. Even though you’re unconscious, the ventilator keeps you breathing.
  • Provide you with blood thinners- A blood thinner, such as heparin, is added to your blood by your provider. As your blood flows through the heart-lung bypass machine, this reduces the risk of blood clots.
  • Connect you to a cardiopulmonary bypass machine- A cardiopulmonary bypass machine is another name for this. During surgery, this device takes over the work of your heart and lungs. It increases the amount of oxygen in your blood and decreases the amount of carbon dioxide. It also keeps blood flowing to all of your other organs and tissues.
  • Take your heart out- Your heart is removed by your surgeon to make room for the donor heart. The blood vessels that connect to your heart are clamped off and your heart is disconnected from them during this procedure.
  • The donor heart is implanted- Your surgeon connects the donor heart to your major blood vessels and begins the process of warming and restarting your new heart. Your new heart may require assistance to begin beating. If this is the case, your medical team may need to use an electrical pacing device. This device functions similarly to a pacemaker but does not require permanent implantation.

What experiences you encounter after Heart transplant procedure is done?

You can expect the following after your heart transplant:

  • Recovery in the hospital Depending on your situation, you’ll be in the hospital for one to three weeks to recover. The first stage of your recovery will be spent in the intensive care unit (ICU). Healthcare providers will keep an eye on you around the clock in the ICU. They will monitor your vital signs and look for signs that your body is rejecting your new heart.
  • Care strategy. Your provider will give you a plan of care to follow while recovering at home before you leave the hospital. Check that you understand the plan and ask as many questions as you need to.
  • Cardiac rehabilitation. Your healthcare provider will explain how to enroll in a cardiac rehabilitation program. This is a program that is prescribed and monitored to help you improve your strength, endurance, and heart function.

What is the end result of Heart Transplant?

Most heart transplant recipients have a high quality of life. You may be able to resume many of your daily life activities, such as work, hobbies and sports, and exercising, depending on your condition. Some women who have had heart transplants can become pregnant. A variety of factors influence survival rates after heart transplantation. Despite an increase in older and higher risk heart transplant recipients, survival rates continue to improve.

What diet and nutrition you should follow after heart transplant?

You may need to change your diet after a heart transplant to keep your heart healthy and functioning properly. Following your transplant, a nutrition specialist (dietitian) can discuss your dietary needs and answer your questions. The following are some of your dietitian’s recommendations:

  • Eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet that includes plenty of plant-based foods
  • Consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables every day
  • Consuming lean meats like fish or poultry
  • Selecting foods with low to moderate sodium (salt), fat, and added sugar.
  • Choosing fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Selecting heart-healthy fats like avocados, salmon, and nuts
  • To help maintain adequate calcium levels in your body, drink low-fat or fat-free milk or consume other low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
  • Avoiding fruits that may interfere with the medications you take following your transplant. Grapefruit, Seville oranges, and pomegranates are a few examples.
  • Getting to and maintaining a healthy weight
  • To reduce the risk of infection, adhere to food safety guidelines.
  • Avoiding excessive alcohol consumption
  • Keeping hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other fluids every day

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