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Living Donation

Who's a Heart Transplant Candidate?

If you have end-stage heart failure or severe coronary artery disease and no longer see results with medical therapy, you may be a heart transplant candidate at UPMC.

A transplant can greatly enhance the quality and length of life for people with severe heart disease.

Congestive Heart Failure Stages

Heart failure comes about because of conditions that strain the heart muscle, causing it to weaken. The heart isn't able to fill with or pump blood as well as it once did.

The most common causes of heart failure are:

  • High blood pressure
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Diabetes

Heart failure develops in stages from:

  • I to IV based on symptoms.
  • A to D based on signs your doctor sees in an exam.

People who are most eligible for heart transplant tend to have between stage IIIB and stage IV heart disease.

This means that you have symptoms and limitations when doing mild activity, or even when resting, and that your doctor's exam shows signs of severe heart disease.

Criteria for Heart Transplant

Our heart transplant team evaluates every person referred to our program. Our transplant cardiologist, surgeons, and other team members work together to decide if you would receive the most benefit from a transplant.

Factors that determine eligibility for heart transplant include:

  • Severity of the heart disease.
  • Medical options available to manage heart disease.
  • Other diseases that may affect the outcome of transplant or that increase the risks of surgery.
  • Age.
  • Height and weight, which can affect the waiting period and likelihood of receiving a transplant.
  • Ability to stick to the treatment plan before and after transplant.

After your transplant surgery, you will be required to take medicines that will suppress your immune system for the rest of your life.

Health problems that can increase the risk of issues after transplant include:

  • Vascular disease
  • Hepatitis
  • Lung disease
  • Cancer
  • Kidney failure
  • Diabetes

Heart Transplant Process After Referral

Once your doctor refers you to UPMC's Heart Transplant Program, the transplant team will look carefully at your medical history and assess the risks and benefits of transplant.

We'll work with your referring doctor to get a precise picture of your overall heart condition and ability to stick to the treatment plan.

In addition to the physical exam for transplant, we will assign a credit analyst and case manager who will discuss the financial aspects of a transplant.

Receiving a heart transplant can be costly. Our team is here to make sure you can handle the burden and help you find financial assistance, if you need it.

When possible, the team will urge you to continue or adjust medical treatment before your heart transplant.

If you're not a heart transplant candidate at this time, we may refer you to the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute for comprehensive care of your condition.

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