How does the transplant process work?
Potential transplant recipients are placed on a waiting list by a doctor who has determined that a transplant is the best treatment option. A healthcare team also has to determine if a patient is healthy enough to go through with the transplant option. Once confirmed and a donor heart is available, the heart transplant process can begin.
Following normal surgery preparation, patients will receive an intravenous (IV) line in the hand or arm to receive medication and IV fluids. Other catheters are placed in blood vessel in the neck and wrist to monitor blood pressure and the status of a patient’s heart while taking blood samples. A nurse then inserts a Foley catheter into the bladder to drain urine and a tube in the mouth and nose and into the stomach to drain stomach fluids.
A breathing tube is inserted after anesthesia and is attached to a ventilator, according to the University of Texas Southwestern. The patient is then connected to a heart-lung machine, like Medtronic’s Century Heart Lung Machine, that will take over the functions of the heart and lungs during the procedure.
Throughout the procedure, blood is diverted to the bypass machine that pumps while the surgeon removes the diseased heart. After the heart is removed, the new heart goes in and the vessels are sewn into places so that no leaks will occur.
Blood is allowed back into the heart from the bypass machine once the new heart is fully connected. The surgeon then shocks the heart back to life to restart the heartbeat.
The University of Texas Southwestern offers up a 360º view of a whole process of a heart transplant, from the time a donor heart is available to traveling to the hospital to retrieve the heart to implanting the heart and finishing the procedure.