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Heart Transplant Surgery Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Start the Heart Transplant Process at UPMC?

The UPMC Heart Transplant Program accepts self-referrals or your doctor can refer you and provide us with your medical history.

 

You will also need to have insurance approval before beginning the heart transplant evaluation process.

To learn more about our UPMC's Heart Transplant Program, call 412-648-6202 or toll free at 844-548-4591.

What Are the Restrictions for Heart Transplant Surgery?

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

  • A history of cancer, vascular disease, and other conditions because of risk for complications during and after surgery.
  • An inability to stick to the treatment plan.

Will My Health Insurance Cover Heart Transplant Costs?

The costs of transplant surgery depends on your insurance, but they can be very high.

Your credit analyst and social worker at UPMC will:

  • Work with you to understand your insurance coverage.
  • Give you a packet with information about your insurance benefits and potential out-of-pocket costs for your heart transplant.
  • Help you with finding resources to help pay for your heart transplant if you can't cover the costs.

What's the Difference Between Status 1 and Status 2?

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 medications, and/or 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 are able to take oral medicines to treat their heart failure symptoms and can wait at home for a heart to become available.

How Long Will It Take to Get a Heart Transplant?

Wait times for an organ vary widely.

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

  • Health status
  • Size
  • Blood type

What Should I Do If I Don't Live in Pittsburgh?

Depending on your situation, you may need to think about moving closer to Pittsburgh during the heart transplant process.

  • While on the heart transplant wait list, you need to live within 4 hours of UPMC to make sure that you get to the hospital on time when a donor heart becomes available.
  • After heart transplant surgery, you need to stay close for at least a month for weekly appointments.
  • When your appointments become monthly, you still need to be able to come to UPMC. However, you may be able to return home if you have sufficiently recovered (cleared by the transplant team), and can travel for monthly check-ups.

Family House offers affordable housing for people traveling to Pittsburgh for a heart transplant. Family House is not a medical facility.

How Often are Follow-up Appointments After Heart Transplant Surgery?

You will need to visit us for a clinic appointment, right heart cauterization, and heart biopsy:

  • Once a week for the first month
  • Every other week in month 2
  • Once a month until 6 months
  • Every other month until 12 months

Additional appointments and testing may be required based upon the findings from any appointment.

What's the Role of a Heart Transplant Caregiver?

Being a caregiver is a big commitment. It's a supportive role to the transplant candidate before, during, and after the heart transplant.

Your caregiver must:

  • Come to all appointments during the heart transplant evaluation process.
  • Stay with you 24 hours a day for a month or two after your heart transplant surgery.

Your heart transplant caregiver will need to:

  • Make sure you take medications in the right doses at the right times.
  • Help you record all information that the heart transplant team requested.
  • Drive you to and from your heart transplant follow-up appointments.
  • Look for signs that you are behaving unusually.
  • Contact your heart transplant coordinator if anything seems wrong.
  • Shop for heart-healthy food and prepare meals.
  • Run errands, fill prescriptions, and do chores around the house.
  • Provide support, encouragement, and entertainment.
  • Inform and update family and friends of your needs and wishes.
  • Help you stick to your post heart transplant treatment plan.
  • Help you safely walk around your home.

Who Can be My Heart Transplant Caregiver?

You can have one person or a team of people to provide support and care through the heart transplant process. There needs to be one primary point of contact identified.

Your caregiver can be your spouse, sibling, children, neighbors, or friends.

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

To discuss the heart transplant process for your child, schedule an appointment or consultation with the Pedatric Heart and Lung Transplant Program at Children‘s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC at 412-692-5541.

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