Heart transplant tests

You'll need lots of tests to see if you’re able to have a heart transplant

Key points

  • The tests determine whether you are well enough to cope with major surgery
  • Blood tests will check your blood group and tissue type so you can be matched with a donor
  • High levels of antibodies in your blood can make it harder to find a suitable heart donor
  • Heart, lung and other specialist tests are also needed to check your fitness for major surgery

Tests to see if you are suitable for a heart transplant

If your heart doctor thinks that a heart transplant is a possible treatment option, you will have tests done. This assessment process is to see whether your condition is severe enough to make the risk of a transplant worthwhile. It also checks for problems in other organs that might increase the risk of a transplant.

A lot of tests are needed and each transplant centre has their own set of requirements. The team looking after you will provide details of the exact tests that you need.

The information below gives details of some of the tests you are likely to have. 

Blood tests

You will need lots of blood tests to check your general health, blood group and tissue type.

Antibody tests

Your doctor will need to check if you have any antibodies in your blood that might make it harder for you to receive a transplant.

Antibodies to tissue types that are not your own can be formed if you’ve previously had a blood transfusion, pregnancy or transplant. Once these antibodies form, it is very difficult to remove them.

These antibodies increase the risk of some heart transplants being rejected. The team looking after you will let you know if you have these antibodies in your blood, and how they might affect a heart transplant.

Heart, lung, blood vessel and specialist tests

The transplant team will want to know how healthy your lungs, liver, and kidney are, and whether you have any obstructions to your circulation outside the heart. They’ll also need to know whether you have any cancers or serious infections.

National criteria for selecting patient suitable for a heart transplant

All transplant teams in the UK must follow the national criteria for selecting patients suitable for a heart.

View the national criteria for selecting heart transplant patients (POL229)

More information

Medical terms explained


Antibodies are proteins produced by your immune system. They recognise and fight against foreign substances, such as germs (bacteria, viruses) or ‘foreign’ tissue types. Certain antibodies in your blood can make it more likely for your body to reject your transplanted heart.


These are substances that cause an immune response in the body.



This is when a very small piece of tissue is taken for analysis.


View all medical terms


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