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Saint Thomas Heart

Heart Transplant

Dr. Ashok N. Babu

Dr. Ashok N. Babu, MD, is a cardiothoracic surgeon and surgical director of the Saint Thomas Health heart transplant program.  After a long hiatus, Saint Thomas Health reinstituted its heart transplant program in mid-2016.  Now, approximately 20 patients who may be candidates for a heart transplant are admitted each month.

Heart transplantation involves removal of the diseased heart and replaces it with a healthy heart from a deceased donor.  Most heart transplants are performed on patients who have end-stage heart failure, a condition in which the heart is severely damaged or weakened, and on people who have failed other treatment options. In the current area, many of the patients have survived to the point of heart transplant only because they were implanted with a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) as a bridge to transplant. The causes of end-stage heart failure into two broad categories: ischemic and nonischemic. Patients with ischemic heart failure are those that have blockages in the blood vessels feeding the heart that have had heart attacks. Nonischemic heart failure is failure of the heart without coronary disease and the cause is often unknown, but can be related to viral infections, drug use, and hereditary cardiomyopathies. 

Patients may be eligible for heart transplant surgery if they have severe heart disease that does not respond to other treatments. If the patient is otherwise healthy enough for surgery, he or she will be placed on the National Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network’s waiting list. This national network handles the organ-sharing process for the United States. If a match is found, the surgery will be performed right away.

Heart transplant surgery is performed at specialized centers with the patient under general anesthesia. The patient receives medicine through an intravenous (IV) line and a breathing tube connected to a ventilator will be inserted. A surgeon will open the chest, connect the patient’s body to a heart-lung bypass machine, and remove the diseased heart. The machine keeps the body in good shape while the heart is out of the body. The new heart is connected to the left atrium, the pulmonary artery, the aorta, and the venous structures. The heart restarts on its own once blood supply is delivered to it. Once the heart has recovered the patient is weaned off the heart lung machine. 

Heart transplant has an excellent success rate; recent survival rates are approximately 85 to 90 percent at one year after surgery. 

Heart Transplant Handbook

This Heart Transplant handbook has been created for you and your family by the Saint Thomas Health Heart Transplant Team. It includes guidelines and information so you can begin learning what to expect during the evaluation phase, the waiting period, and after the transplant.