Risks of a heart transplant
It’s important to understand the risks of a heart transplant
- Not every patient feels better after having a heart transplant
- A heart transplant is major surgery and you’ll need to take strong medicines afterwards, which can cause problems
- The risks of transplantation can broadly be divided into early risks and longer-term risks
- All donated organs have the potential to come with health risks
Understanding your risks
A successful heart transplant reverses the effect of advanced heart failure on the rest of the body. But it is not considered a cure because of the need to take immunosuppressant medications and the associated problems. A transplanted heart does not have a ‘normal’ lifespan. This is because the immune system will eventually damage the transplanted heart despite the medications that you take. The operation itself is risky and is associated with many complications.
For a heart transplant, each risk is said to be either: very common, common, uncommon or rare. This is based on the number of heart transplant patients that have been affected by the risk.
|Risk level||Number of heart transplant patients affected|
|Very common||More than 10 in 100|
|Common||Between 1 in 100 and 10 in 100|
|Uncommon||Between 1 in 1000 and 1 in 100|
|Rare||Fewer than 1 in 1000|
Example: Very common risk
The image below is a visual representation of a complication that affects 15 in 100 patients.
Example: Common risk
The image below is a visual representation of a complication that affects 2 in 100 patients.
Speak to your heart doctor about your risks
This information summarises the risks for most patients. But your transplant journey is unique. Your heart doctor will be able to discuss in more detail the risks you might face.