An overview of Heart Transplants – Causes, Risk and Success Factors
Heart transplants are advised when the only road ahead of the patient is heart failure. It requires the heart of a donor who is recently deceased. Across the world the need for donor hearts exceeds the availability of a healthy organ.
However, a heart transplant is a risky venture, while also needing some serious financial responsibility. A trust-worthy and reputable medical organization with an established name in cardiology care can overcome the risks, gifting new life to patients with heart failure.
What causes heart failure?
- High blood pressure
- Heart valve disease
- Genetic defects
- Irregular heartbeat
- Alcoholism or drug abuse
- Chronic lung disease
- Enlarged, thick and stiff heart muscle
- High blood pressure in the lungs
All of the above could be causes for heart failure, which would call for a heart transplant.
The most common procedure for a heart transplant involves taking a functioning heart (with or without the lungs) from a recently deceased organ donor and implanting it into the patient. Usually, the patient’s own heart is removed but, in rare cases, the heart is left in its place in order to support the new heart.
This first human-to-human heart transplant was performed by South African cardiac surgeon Dr Christiaan Barnard on a patient named Louis Washkansky, on December 3, 1967, in Cape Town, South Africa. Three days later, on December 6, 1967, Dr Adrian Kantrowitz performed the world’s first paediatric heart transplant in Brooklyn, New York. (Source: Wikipedia)
Since then, the methods and techniques of a heart transplant have been further improved and perfected, thanks to the contribution of various surgeons across the world. But, in spite of the most advanced technologies, a heart transplant procedure still poses a few risks, such as:
- Bleeding: during or post-surgery
- Failure of the donor heart
- Breathing problems
- Thickening of the vessels that carry blood to the heart muscles
- Blood clots that cause lung problems, stroke or heart attack
- Kidney failure
Some factors that can make for a successful heart transplant are:
- Availability of healthy organs and donors
- Quick transportation of the donor heart to the patient. (Read how one of our patients Abdullah was airlifted from Hyderabad to Vizag for an emergency transplant – A Flight to the Heart – Mohammed Abdullah’s heartwarming story/)
- Stringent handling of the organ right from the processes of its recovery from the deceased donor to its transport and surgery on the recipient.
- Blood tests for identifying the right donor and to reduce the chances of rejection.
- Diagnostic tests to ascertain the general health of the patient, state of the lungs and other related organs.
- Vaccination for the recipient to prevent infections.
- An advanced hospital and a surgeon with a successful track record. Post-surgery, close observation and subtle changes in medications are required for 1-3 years.
In India, 90% of heart transplant surgeries are successful due to the skills of the surgeons and the high quality of medical infrastructure in private hospitals. In India and the world over, the life expectancy of a recipient is 15-17 years.
With rapid strides in science, it is probable that not only hearts but many other organs will be built artificially, customized for the specific individual recipient. But such research is still very nascent and may take years to become a reality.
For the near future, surgeons and researchers are working on minimizing the risks associated with the rejection and failure of a donor heart. It is essential that the public is educated about the compassionate choice of organ donation and all the authorities concerned work seamlessly to ensure that these vital life-giving organs are delivered to recipients safely and quickly.
If you have / someone you know has been experiencing any heart problems. click here to book an appointment with our experienced specialists.