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Who is a Heart Transplant Candidate at UPMC?

You may be a heart transplant candidate if you have severe heart disease and no longer see results with medical treatment.

Criteria for a Heart Transplant Candidate

Typically, you could be eligible for a heart transplant if you:

Are younger than 69 years old.

Have been diagnosed with an end-stage heart disease like cardiomyopathy or coronary artery disease.

Have been given a prognosis that suggests you have a risk of mortality within the next year if a heart transplant is not performed.

Who Is Not a Good Candidate for a Heart Transplant?

While a heart transplant is a life-saving option that UPMC experts have extensive experience with, not everyone is a likely candidate for the operation. You may be an unlikely candidate for a heart transplant if you have other serious ailments like:

  • Active infection
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Cancer
  • Kidney or liver disease

Heart Conditions that Can Lead to Transplant Surgery

A transplant can greatly enhance the quality and length of life for people with severe heart diseases, such as:

Heart failure causes and stages

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

The most common causes of heart failure are:

  • High blood pressure
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Diabetes

Heart failure evolves 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 qualified for a heart transplant tend to have between stage IIIB and stage IV heart disease. This means you have symptoms and limits when doing mild activity or even when resting.

What Is the Survival Rate for Heart Transplant Patients?

Nationally, the average survival rate for heart transplant patients one-year post-operative is 85 to 90%. The three-year post-operative survival rate is around 75%.

The Right Heart for the Right Person at the Right Time

How we decide if heart transplant is right for you

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

Factors that help decide if heart transplant is right for you include:

  • Severity of the heart disease
  • Medical options to manage heart disease
  • Other diseases that may affect the outcome of transplant or 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 heart transplant, you'll need to take medicines that suppress your immune system for the rest of your life.

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

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

Your Heart Transplant Journey After Referral

Once your doctor refers you to UPMC's Heart Transplant Program, the care team will:

  • Closely look at your medical history and assess the risks and benefits of transplant.
  • Work with your referring doctor to get a precise picture of your heart disease and ability to stick to the treatment plan.
  • Assign a credit analyst and case manager who will discuss how to pay for your 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 aid if you need it.

The transplant team may ask you to continue or adjust your current medical treatment before your heart transplant.

If you're not a heart transplant candidate, we may refer you to the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute for care.

Contact the UPMC Heart Transplant Program

To contact the UPMC Heart Transplant Program, please call 412-648-6202 or toll-free at 844-548-4591. You can also fill out the UPMC Heart Transplant Program contact form to make an appointment or refer a patient.