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Heart Transplant Surgery Frequently Asked Questions

I need a heart transplant. How do I get on the heart transplant waiting list at UPMC?

Your doctor can refer you, or you can refer yourself to the UPMC Heart Transplant Program.

 

Download the patient referral data sheet for the UPMC Heart Transplant Program (PDF). It lists all the data you or your doctor need to provide for referral to the program.

 

Fax the completed data sheet to UPMC through a secure e-fax line at 412-864-5913.

Will my health insurance cover the cost of a heart transplant?

Each insurance plan is different.

 

Your UPMC heart transplant credit analyst and social worker will help you discern what parts of your care your insurance will cover.

I don’t have health insurance. How much does a heart transplant cost?

The cost of a heart transplant can vary from person to person, depending on many factors.

 

If you wish to discuss estimated cost, we'll give you contact information for patient business services and a heart transplant credit analyst.

Am I too old for a heart transplant?

The UPMC Heart Transplant Program does not have an upper age limit for heart transplants.

 

We consider all potential heart transplant candidates on a case by case basis.

 

We think about the risks and benefits for each person separately. Age is just one of many factors.

I quit smoking, but I'm still using e-cigarettes (or other nicotine replacement product). Is that OK? How long must I be nicotine-free before I can have a heart transplant evaluation and get on the waiting list?

You must be nicotine-free for a minimum of four months before you can have a heart transplant evaluation.

 

To get on the waiting list for a heart transplant, you must be nicotine-free for six months.

 

This includes all forms of nicotine:

  • Cigarettes
  • Cigars
  • Smokeless tobacco
  • E-cigarettes
  • Nicotine patches, gum, or any other form of pharmaceutical nicotine

I had a heart transplant evaluation at another center, and they turned me down. Will UPMC evaluate me for a heart transplant?

Yes. The UPMC Heart Transplant Program will consider you for a heart transplant even if a different center turned you down. Our experts review each case we receive.

 

We can often use the results from testing done at other medical centers. But, our doctors and the rest of the transplant team still need to assess you.

What happens during an outpatient heart transplant evaluation? What kinds of tests will I need to have?

The outpatient heart transplant evaluation takes about a week to complete. Besides consults with your UPMC Heart Transplant Program team, you might also have a heart transplant education session and diagnostic testing.

 

These tests provide complete data for the transplant team to assess the functions of your heart, lungs, and other bodily systems. They also help the team to decide if you’re a good candidate for transplant.

My spouse and adult children all have full time jobs. Can I come to the heart transplant evaluation by myself?

No. The UPMC Heart Transplant Program requires all candidates to bring a primary caregiver.

 

The heart transplant evaluation is physically demanding. It can be hard for someone with heart disease to get from one appointment, test, or location without help.

 

Caregivers should also attend the pretransplant education session. They'll meet with the members of your transplant team and learn what to expect as a potential caregiver after your heart transplant.

 

Being a caregiver is a big commitment. Our team will not propose adding candidates to the heart transplant wait list if they don't have strong caregiver support.

Who can be my heart transplant caregiver?

You will need to have a primary caregiver and a back-up caregiver to help you through the heart transplant process.

 

Your caregivers can be your:

  • Spouse
  • Sibling
  • Child
  • Neighbor
  • Friends

If I get on the heart transplant waiting list, do I have to live in Pittsburgh?

No, but we do require people on the heart transplant waiting list to be able to get to Pittsburgh within four hours.

 

Many people drive, but some arrange private flights to Pittsburgh. Your UPMC Heart Transplant Program social worker can give you details about flights.

How long will I need to wait for a new heart after getting on the heart transplant waiting list?

Waiting times are hard to predict and highly variable — from one day to over a year.

 

Some factors that affect your wait time for a heart include your:

  • Health status
  • Size
  • Blood type

What’s the difference between Status 1 and Status 2 on the heart transplant waiting list?

The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) assigns a status to each person on the heart transplant wait list.

 

Status 1a is for people who are:

  • In intensive care.
  • On IV drugs.
  • Need multiple heart pumps.

Status 1b is for people who are:

  • On IV medicines or have a ventricular assist device (VAD).

Status 2 is for people who can:

  • Take oral medicines to treat their heart failure symptoms and wait for a heart at home.

What are the restrictions for heart transplant surgery?

Issues that may restrict you from having a heart transplant include:

 

  • Certain health problems that increase your risk for complications during and after heart transplant surgery. Examples include active cancer — or a history of cancer — and blood vessel disease.
  • The inability to comply with a complex medical regimen.

How long will I be in the hospital once I have a heart transplant?

Most people stay in the hospital for about 10 to 14 days after a heart transplant. Some people need to stay longer.

Do I have to live in Pittsburgh after my heart transplant?

We ask that you stay close to the hospital for at least a month after transplant surgery, depending on your recovery. You must have a dedicated caregiver living with you at all times.

How often do I have to come back to Pittsburgh for post-transplant care?

For the first four weeks, you will come to the UPMC Heart Transplant Program once a week for biopsies.

 

Then, if your recovery is going well, your appointments for the first year after your heart transplant will follow this schedule:

  • Every other week in month 2.
  • Once a month until 6 months.
  • Every other month until 12 months.

How long until I can drive after my heart transplant?

You will not be able to drive for about six weeks after heart transplant surgery. You will need to have a caregiver with you for the first few months to help you run errands.

How do I start the heart transplant process for my child?

To learn more about the heart transplant process for your child:

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