Why you might need a heart transplant

Common reasons that might lead to needing a heart transplant

Key points

  • A heart transplant is a treatment option for some patients with advanced heart failure
  • Most heart transplant patients have long-standing, progressive heart disease
  • Some transplant patients have sudden heart failure, for example, as a result of a heart attack
  • You must be fit enough to cope with the operation and aftercare

Who can have a heart transplant?

A heart transplant is a treatment option for a small number of carefully selected patients with advanced heart failure.

Patients with long-standing heart failure

Most patients who are referred to a transplant centre have long-standing heart disease that has gradually progressed over many years despite appropriate treatment with medicines and devices (like a pacemaker).

There are many different causes of heart failure that might lead to needing a heart transplant. The most common causes are:

  • Cardiomyopathies,
  • Coronary artery disease,
  • Congenital heart disease

Patients with sudden heart failure

In some people, heart failure happens suddenly. For example, after a heart attack that irreversibly damages a large part of the main pumping chamber of the heart (the left ventricle).

Are you able to have heart transplant?

In order to be considered for a heart transplant, you need to be fit enough for major surgery, and be able to take the medicines needed to help prevent rejection of the transplant. These medicines are known as immunosuppressants.

Both the surgery and the immunosuppressant medicines can lead to other serious medical problems. It is important that your other organs can cope during this period.

Learn about heart transplant surgery

Learn about heart transplant medicines

Reasons why you might not be able to have a heart transplant

Common reasons why a heart transplant may not be the right treatment for you include:

  • Other organs in your body may have been damaged by heart failure (e.g. kidneys and liver)
  • The pressure in the lung circulation may have risen to a degree that makes a heart transplant unsafe
  • You may have become too frail because of prolonged illness
  • You may be so overweight that a heart transplant is less likely to give a good long-term outcome
  • You are ‘too well’ to be listed for a transplant

Learn more about why a heart transplant may not be suitable 

More information

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