Penn Transplant Institute

Heart Transplant Process

Patients whose hearts do not function well due to coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, valvular disease or other life-threatening cardiac problems may be candidates for a heart transplant.

There are four major stages in the heart transplant process at Penn Medicine.

Patients who may be helped by a heart transplant undergo an extensive evaluation by the Penn Heart Transplant Team. Based on the evaluation results, the transplant team decides whether or not a heart transplant is appropriate as the best therapeutic option.

The decision to proceed with a heart transplant represents a lifelong commitment to self-care and medical follow-up, so the ultimate decision rests with the patients. Only they can evaluate their quality of life and determine whether or not a heart transplant is worth pursuing.

Heart Waiting List

Those patients who decide to pursue a heart transplant are placed on the waiting list. Being "placed on the list" means their names and certain medical information are entered into the national database overseen by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).

When a donor heart is identified, a group of surgeons evaluate the organ. Because of time constraints, patients are called in to the hospital before the inspection is completed. If the donor heart meets transplant criteria, the transplant surgery proceeds. But if for any reason the heart is determined to be unsuitable, the surgery is cancelled.

On average, heart transplant patients stay in the hospital for two to three weeks following surgery.

After leaving the hospital, patients are expected to return to the Penn Transplant Institute for ongoing therapy and medical care and are monitored for any signs of infection, rejection or medication side effects.