The goal of Penn Medicine's heart transplant program is to help patients suffering from end-stage heart failure. Heart transplant is a complex procedure requiring an experienced and caring team and Penn's heart transplant program has the depth and experience to successfully treat those patients for whom transplant is the answer, as well as the many patients for whom it is not.
The Penn heart transplant team is experienced in evaluating high-risk patients and understands what transplantation can provide. Many of the sickest patients choose Penn's heart transplant program for their care. As the largest heart transplant center in the Mid-Atlantic region and one of the top three heart transplant programs in the nation, surgeons at Penn have performed more than 1000 heart transplants since the program began in 1988, more than all of the other centers in the region combined.
Heart transplantation may be an option for patients whose hearts do not function well due to:
- Coronary artery disease
- Valvular disease
- Cardiorenal syndrome
- Other life-threatening cardiac problems
Heart Transplant Treatment Options
Advances being made at Penn Medicine are helping patients with heart failure live longer, fuller lives than ever thought possible. One of the most promising of these advances is the expanded use of ventricular-assist devices (VADs), implantable mechanical pumps that are used to support severely weakened hearts.
VADs allow for several approaches to treatment:
- Bridge-to-transplant therapy: VADs enable patients to survive until a donor heart becomes available.
- Destination therapy: VADS offer lifelong support for the failing heart.
- Bridge-to-recovery: The VAD is used to "rest" the native heart over a period of weeks to months, and then removed. This therapy holds the promise of permitting other treatments to restore the native heart to full function, avoiding the need for transplant.
For heart failure patients with damage on both sides of the heart, VADs may not offer adequate support. In 2007, Penn Transplant Institute became the first heart transplant center in the region to be certified for temporary total artificial heart (TAH-t) implantation. The TAH-t functions as a heart while the patient awaits transplant. Patients receiving the TAH-t are nearly twice as likely to survive until transplant as are patients who receive traditional mechanical support.