As a national and internationally-recognized pioneer and leader in heart transplantation, Loma Linda University Medical Center (LLUMC) Transplantation Institute provides comprehensive whole-person care to improve patient’s individual outcomes. The heart transplantation process begins with pre-evaluation and continues through transplant surgery and recovery.
To be considered as a heart transplant candidate, the transplant coordinator will schedule a thorough transplant evaluation. During the visit, you’ll go through a series of tests and consultations with our multidisciplinary Heart Transplant Team. The initial evaluation focuses on physical health and a cardiologist will review your medical history and assess your condition. Further diagnostic tests may be necessary to determine if other major organ diseases are present. These tests will be scheduled at a later date.
Other members of the Heart Transplant Team will speak with you, including a physician from the Infectious Disease Department who will explore potential risks from infection. Our social worker and a financial advisor will meet with you to provide transplant process details, coverage options and financial considerations. Plus, you’re required to have a dental exam to clear you for a transplant. This assesses cavity-prone teeth and any abscesses that may cause serious heart infections after transplant.
Heart Transplant Surgery
Once it’s determined that you are a good candidate for transplant and our team has received final approval from your insurance company, your transplant coordinator will register you with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) waiting list. Under UNOS guidelines, donor and recipient matching is based primarily on blood type, heart size and medical urgency. While the Transplantation Institute cannot predict the waiting time, a physician will continue to monitor your condition during this period.
We’ll call you when a suitable heart becomes available. DO NOT eat or drink after notification and come to the hospital immediately.
When you get the call to come in for your transplant, bring only a few personal belongings to the hospital. After you have been admitted to the Transplant Unit, our Heart Transplant Team will perform pre-operative laboratory tests and x-rays to prepare you for the transplant surgery. Your family will stay with you until it’s time to go to the operating room.
The actual heart transplant takes about six to eight hours. During surgery, a nurse coordinator will update you and your family periodically.
Post surgery, you’ll be under our nurses’ care in the intensive care unit (ICU). You’ll stay here until you are stable and can breathe on your own. During this time, your immediate family may visit if they do not have colds or infections will have to follow protective isolation procedures.
During your hospital stay, our doctors will teach you about prescribed medicines and how to counteract complications of heart rejection and infection. Usually the first rejection episode occurs within two to eight weeks after surgery. Also, you’re more susceptible to infection, because medicines required to prevent you from rejecting the transplanted heart interfere with your immunity.
On average, your hospital stay will last one to two weeks, but the time of discharge ultimately depends upon your progress and any medical complications. One week following surgery, a cardiologist will perform regular heart biopsies (with the exception of young children). The biopsy is a minor procedure that causes mild discomfort and it’s used by doctors to collect heart cell samples for signs of rejection. If rejection is diagnosed, you’ll need medication therapy alterations.
Before leaving the hospital, you’ll learn about living with a transplanted organ from our Heart Transplant Team. The more you learn from the discharge teaching, the better you can actively manage the routine at home. You and your family will learn how to:
- Recognize symptoms of infection and rejection
- Take and administer medications
- Keep daily records of medication, temperature and weight
- Control a diet low in cholesterol and sodium
- Control blood pressure
Other topics include proper activity level, hygiene, home care and environmental hazards (e.g. cigarette smoke).
We recommend ordering a Medic Alert bracelet which identifies you as a heart transplant recipient. Also, your caregivers will need to learn CPR should an emergency occur at home.
Living with a Transplant
After leaving the hospital, you’ll need to make some lifestyle adjustments. Depending on your care needs, you must r regularly return to the Outpatient Heart Transplant Clinic for follow-up care. Also, your cardiologist or pediatrician and transplant coordinator must be notified when dental work is scheduled.
With the accessibility of our facilities and ease of scheduling an appointment, LLUMC’s compassionate staff is dedicated to providing you with whole-person care. Our commitment to the well-being of your mind, body and spirit begins with your request for an appointment. Make an appointment by calling us toll-free at 1-800-548-3790 or locally at 909-558-4201, by clicking here to fill out our online request form, or by visiting our facilities today.
Download additional reading materials
The Transplant Patient English
The Transplant Patient Spanish
Patient Welome Packet
Click here to visit our resource page for additional helpful information.