As donor hearts are scarce, you'll need to be assessed carefully to determine whether a heart transplant is suitable, if your doctor thinks you could benefit from one.
A heart transplant may be considered if:
If it's thought you could benefit from a heart transplant, you'll be assessed at a transplant centre to check whether having one is suitable.
An in-depth assessment at a transplant centre is needed to find out more about your health and check whether there are any underlying problems that could affect your suitability for a transplant.
This will usually involve having several tests, such as:
You'll also have the opportunity during your assessment to meet the transplant team and find out more about the procedure.
You may find it useful to write down a list of questions you would like to ask the transplant team before your visit.
Unfortunately, not everyone who could benefit from a heart transplant will be suitable for one.
This is because the operation places a major strain on the body, and may mean the risks outweigh the potential benefits.
For example, you may be considered unsuitable for a heart transplant if you:
Age isn't a factor in determining whether a heart transplant is suitable, although they're rarely performed in people over the age of 65 because they often have other health problems that mean a transplant is too risky.
The final decision about whether you are suitable for a heart transplant is a joint decision made by the transplant team.
You may be informed about the decision before leaving the transplant centre. But if your case is not straight forward, it may be several weeks before you are told the decision.
The transplant team may decide you are:
In some cases, further tests are necessary to make a final decision, or you may be referred to a different transplant centre for a second opinion.
A heart transplant is an operation to replace a damaged or failing heart with a healthy heart from a donor who has recently died. It may be recommended when a person's life is at risk because their heart no longer works effectively.
As donor hearts are scarce, you'll need to be assessed carefully to determine whether a heart transplant is suitable, if your doctor thinks you could benefit from one. The final decision about whether you are suitable for a heart transplant is a joint decision made by the transplant team.
Because of the lack of available hearts, it's rarely possible to have a heart transplant as soon as it's needed, so you'll usually be placed on a waiting list. It may be several months, or possibly years, before a donor heart of the right size and blood groups becomes available.
A heart transplant is carried out with you unconscious under general anaesthetic , and normally takes between four and six hours. You'll be connected to a heart-lung bypass machine, which will take over the functions of the heart and lungs while the transplant is being carried out.
Read about what you can expect after a heart transplant and when you can return to your normal activities.
A heart transplant is a major operation, and there is a risk of several complications. Some complications can occur soon after the procedure, while others may develop months or even years later.
In 1998, Andy Cook was told he had just two days to live. But when a donor heart became available, a transplant saved his life. Bit by bit, Andy regained his strength, but his journey back to health had some setbacks.