Heart failure occurs when the heart can no longer pump enough blood to adequately supply the body, leading to circulatory issues, weakness and other problems. If the condition becomes too serious to be helped by other means, one option may be a heart transplant. In this procedure, the chest is opened (sternotomy) and the patient’s failing heart is removed and replaced by a healthy heart from a deceased donor. During the surgery, the patient is placed on a cardiopulmonary bypass (heart-lung) machine.
Heart transplant is a high-risk, inpatient procedure, only appropriate for otherwise healthy patients who are committed to taking care of their new heart. If the patient is ruled a candidate for transplant, there is a waiting period for a donor heart, followed by a lifetime of care and monitoring. However, the procedure cannot only save the patient’s life but allow them to return to many activities that would have been impossible for someone with severe heart failure.