Heart Transplant Eligibility

University of Maryland Medical Center's Dr. Gautam Ramani laughs with a patient.

At the University of Maryland, we have a robust heart support program. If you have heart failure, we have the capabilities, resources and advanced technology to find the appropriate treatment that meets your needs.

We first try to treat advanced heart failure with a variety of medications. If you continue to have severe symptoms despite taking the standard medications, our heart specialists can provide many options, including investigational medications, mechanical heart support devices and transplantation. Learn more about heart transplant.

Who is a Candidate for a Heart Transplant?

If you have advanced heart failure even while on maximal medical therapy, we will consider you for a transplant evaluation. We will also consider you if you have:

  • Increasing medication requirements
  • Frequent hospitalizations
  • Overall deterioration of health

Criteria that Indicates You Need a Transplant

We have included a list of criteria for inclusion in our heart transplant program, as well as a list of situations and conditions that will usually prevent or exclude you from receiving a transplant.

Remember that even if you are not a good candidate for a heart transplant, we have many other treatment options that can help you, including alternative treatments, or experimental medical or surgical therapy. Learn more about our VAD program.

You may be a candidate for heart transplant if you meet these criteria:

  • An estimated life expectancy of less than one year without transplant
  • Evidence of advanced physical incapacity due to documented, isolated heart disease
  • Solid agreement that previous medical therapy has been optimal and that no medical therapy or surgical procedure other than transplantation offers realistic expectation of extension of life and functional improvement
  • Strong family support to help the patient emotionally before and after the surgery

You may be considered for a heart transplant if you have these conditions that may cause heart failure:

Criteria that could reduce eligibility for transplant

The following factors may exclude you from receiving a heart transplant:

  • More than 65 years of age
  • Severe irreversible pulmonary hypertension (high pressure in the lung arteries due to permanent changes in the lung blood vessels)
  • Irreversible kidney or liver dysfunction not explained by (caused by) underlying heart failure
  • Symptomatic peripheral (legs), renal (kidney) or cerebrovascular (neck or brain) artery disease. These conditions may cause symptoms such as leg cramping with walking or at rest, foot ulcers; kidney failure or severe hypertension; or "transient ischemic attack" or stroke.
  • Severe chronic lung disease (emphysema, asthma, chronic bronchitis)
  • Active systemic infection (infection in the blood, lung, urine or elsewhere, or an open wound)
  • Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) with evidence of damage to other organs, such as kidney, eye (retina) or nerves
  • Cancer within the past five years. Exceptions may be made for some types of early skin cancer, or other unusual circumstances
  • Other life-threatening diseases likely to severely limit length of life even if the transplant were successful, or to severely limit quality of life

Under some exceptional circumstances, we may consider patients over the age of 65 or those that have conditions listed here that we can manage successfully.

In the final analysis, in order to receive a heart transplant, the patient must believe that the potential benefits of transplantation are worth the risks.

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