After the Transplant
The wait is over — you now have your new heart. You may have many questions about the “after” period, whether it’s about your hospital stay or the long-term recovery plan. Your transplant team will work closely with you in the hours, days, weeks and even years following your surgery. We are always available if you have any questions or concerns.
After the Heart Transplant: The First Few Days
The heart transplant surgery lasts approximately six to eight hours. When the surgery is completed:
- We take you to the intensive care unit. Learn more about our cardiac surgery ICU.
- Over the next few days as you recover, we gradually remove the breathing tube, various drainage tubes and intravenous lines.
- Occasionally the new heart may have an abnormally slow rhythm, and you may need a pacemaker. Learn more about ICDs and pacemakers.
After the Heart Transplant: Your Hospital Stay
We monitor you carefully to evaluate whether your body is accepting your new organ. This includes regular heart echocardiograms, electrocardiograms and biopsies.
The main abnormality we are looking for is immune injury to the heart. This means your body’s immune system is attacking the new heart as a “foreign object.” If we see evidence of immune injury, we may prescribe additional therapy to reverse the rejection process. In almost every instance, this therapy is successful at reversing the rejection.
You will be in the intensive care unit for three to seven days, followed by one to two weeks in the hospital.
After the Heart Transplant: Going Home
Congratulations! It’s time to go home. You may be nervous about leaving the 24-hour care of the hospital. However, our dedicated transplant team works with you before your discharge to make sure you feel comfortable and confident in caring for your new, healthy heart. We will continue to monitor you on an outpatient basis.
- The Outpatient Practice: You will return to the Outpatient Practice once a week for the first month after leaving the hospital. We conduct tests to monitor your progress. We may also adjust your medications until they precisely match your needs. After the first month, we will decide on a regular monitoring schedule with you.
- Your responsibility: Transplantation can greatly improve the quality of your life, but it requires your participation. You must take an active role in preserving your health. This means knowing your medications, what you take them for, when to take them and the correct dosage.
- Support group: Learn more about our Heart and Lung Transplant Support Group.
Transplantation has become so successful in recent years in large part through the development of more effective immunosuppressive medications. These drugs stop the body's immune system from identifying the new organ as a foreign object and then from trying to destroy it. It is critical to take your immunosuppressive medication for the rest of your life following transplant.
Complications After Heart Transplantation
A heart transplant is a major surgery. Like any procedure, it carries some risk of complications. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you experience pain or something doesn’t feel “right.”
We are dedicated to prevention, diagnosis and treatment of post-surgical complications. Typical complications include: