Penn Transplant Institute

Heart Transplant Frequently Asked Questions

People facing a heart transplant often have questions about the process. The following is a list of some of the most common questions and their answers.

How long will I have to wait for my heart?

The waiting period for heart transplantation can last anywhere from several days to several months. If patients are able to wait at home, they are given a beeper so the Penn Heart Transplant team can reach them when a donor heart becomes available.

How is the heart waiting list structured?

Donor hearts are given to those with the most urgent need. If two people match criteria for an available donor heart, the heart goes to the patient who is the sickest and who has waited the longest.

What happens after a suitable donor heart becomes available?

When a suitable donor becomes available, the on-call coordinator calls the patient. Patients come directly to the hospital admissions office at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. The following items should be brought to the hospital by the patient:

  • Cell phone to recieve potential calls from the heart transplant program while in transit
  • Medications and extra IV bag of medicine (if on IV medication).
  • Medication list
  • Insurance card
  • Toiletries/slippers/robe (optional)

The patient is admitted to the hospital room and the transplant team begins preparing for surgery. The patient's paperwork and medications are reviewed, their vital signs are checked, and blood is drawn. Patients then wait until it is time to go to the operating room.