Evaluation

Heart transplant evaluation is usually done on an outpatient basis unless you are critically ill and require hospitalization. In addition to meeting with members of the heart transplant team, during the evaluation you will have appointments with other specialists and undergo a number of pre-transplant tests. Our financial coordinator will also pursue financial approval from your insurance company for authorization for heart transplant.

Your insurance company will need to review your records, confirming that you meet criteria for transplant. The pre-transplant tests, as well as giving a clear picture of the patient's overall health status, help in identifying potential problems before they occur. They also help in determining whether transplantation is truly the best option and increases the likelihood of success.

Waiting List

After the following steps have been taken, we can proceed to place you on the waiting list:

  • All of your information has been reviewed by the selection conference.
  • Recommendations have been completed, and it has been determined that you are an acceptable candidate.
  • We have received authorization from your insurance company and the hospital financial department.

If accepted as a transplant candidate, your name will be placed on the UNOS waitlist at the University of Utah Health. There is an expectation that you will be followed by your cardiologist while awaiting your heart transplant.

Waiting Times

Waiting times depend on your blood type, the severity of your illness, body size, and the number of donors available and are therefore difficult to predict. If you have questions regarding your waiting time once you are listed, please talk to your transplant coordinator.

Surgery

While you wait for your transplant, you will carry a beeper or a cell phone. When a heart becomes available, a nurse coordinator will contact you and instruct you on next steps. You will be admitted to the hospital and the transplant staff will guide you in your preparation for surgery.

The surgery can take several hours, depending on the patient's medical condition and previous surgeries. After surgery, the patient goes to the surgical intensive care unit (SICU). The expected length of hospital stay for an uncomplicated heart transplant is 14 days depending on your rate of recovery.

After Transplant

You will begin learning all about your new heart, how to take care of it, how to prevent infection, your medications, and your clinic and lab schedule. The coordinators, pharmacists, and nurses will teach you how to take care of yourself now that you have your new heart. You will receive a post transplant manual. THIS IS YOUR LIFE-LONG GUIDE. The transplant coordinator will come to your room to review the content of the manual, answer questions, and review your medications.

Patients will be expected to stay in the Salt Lake City area for six months after transplant. This is the time of greatest risk of infection. Frequent clinic visits, biopsies, blood draws, and echoes are needed in order to monitor your for rejection and to adjust medication doses. If you have not had any complications after six months, you can then return to your regular cardiologist. We will continue to follow your lab test results and see you as needed in clinic. Communicating with your primary care physician is an important part of the transition and the heart transplant team is available to answer any questions that may arise.