Adult Heart Transplant
Patients who need heart transplants have one common characteristic - they are suffering from heart failure as a result of advanced heart disease. For these patients, transplantation is the only hope for survival as medical therapy or conventional heart surgery is no longer helpful. Without a heart transplant, survival will be limited to one or two years. Transplantation is performed for many heart conditions, but these are two of the most common heart diseases leading to transplantation:
- coronary artery disease (narrowing or hardening of the coronary arteries) and
- cardiomyopathy (weakening of the heart muscle)
Other disorders, such as heart valve diseases, congenital defects, and viral infections, can also weaken the heart and may lead to transplantation.
Treatment for Heart Failure
When heart failure occurs, patients have some treatment options including medication management, surgery, or heart transplantation. A successful heart transplant is the preferred treatment for suitable patients with advanced heart disease. Heart transplantation offers patients the potential of living independent, active lives.
Heart Transplant Operation
Transplant surgery usually takes six to eight hours. The patient is placed on a cardiopulmonary bypass machine while the surgeon works to remove most of the patient's own (native) heart. The patient's native posterior walls of both atria of the heart are left in place. The new heart is inserted and is attached to the remaining heart tissue and blood vessels.
Quality of Life
Many heart transplant recipients are alive more than 10 years later. Sometimes, coronary artery disease may develop after a transplant and some patients eventually need a second transplant. Most heart transplant recipients return to normal, active lives and report that they are satisfied with the quality of their lives. Our transplant program has performed almost 700 heart transplants - more than any other Canadian centre - with a success rate between 80-85 per cent. Some of our earliest patients are the longest-surviving recipients in Canada, celebrating 35 years of healthy life following heart transplantation.
Watch this video, Celebrating the 600th Heart Transplant.
For more information about the heart transplant program, you may want to read our patient handbook.