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A Second Chance After Heart Transplant

When Kim came to to Penn with shortness of breath, she was shocked when physicians diagnosed her with a rare heart condition called giant cell myocarditis. Hear how a heart transplant saved Kim's life and got her back to the things she loves.

Watch Kim's Story
Kim Pimley

Heart Transplant Program: The Penn Medicine Advantage

When someone needs a heart transplant, Penn Medicine’s heart transplant surgeons provide care that is second-to-none. We have deep experience evaluating high-risk patients and providing lifesaving care — even when other centers say surgery isn’t an option. 

Our program is part of the Penn Transplant Institute. Here, you’ll find:

  • Experience: We are among the top ten heart transplant programs in the nation and one of the largest heart transplant centers in the mid-Atlantic. Our surgeons perform an average of one heart transplant each week. Since the program began in 1987, we’ve performed close to 1,500 transplants, more than all other centers in the region combined.
  • Recognition: The Joint Commission awarded us the Medal of Honor for Organ Donation. We are the only center in the region and one of just a few in the nation to receive a Bronze award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Transplant Center Awards.
  • Teamwork: Penn’s cardiac surgeons work collaboratively with our team of heart failure specialists, including cardiologists, cardiac anesthesiologists, imaging specialists, nurses and intensive care specialists. Learn more about the Heart Failure Program.
  • Innovation: We are pushing the limits of how we use mechanical circulatory support to assist patients living with any degree of heart failure.
  • Research: Our established scientific partnerships give patients early access to the latest mechanical devices for supporting or replacing heart functions. The team at Penn Cardiovascular Institute is actively investigating biomarkers that might inform whether a patient’s body could reject a donor heart.

What is Heart Transplantation?

When other treatments for heart failure are unsuccessful, your cardiac surgeon may recommend heart transplant surgery. During open-heart surgery, your surgeon removes your diseased heart and replaces it with a healthy donor heart. Heart failure may be caused by or related to: 

Heart transplantation is a highly successful operation. Worldwide, more than 85 percent of people survive at least one year after heart transplant. Your Penn heart transplant team provides leading-edge care before and after surgery to help you have a positive transplant outcome. Learn more about heart transplant surgery at Penn.

Care Before Heart Transplant Surgery

Heart transplant surgery is usually a procedure of last resort. To correct conditions contributing to heart failure, your surgeon will start with medications. If medications aren’t effective, your surgeon may recommend:

Devices

Implantable devices such as pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) may provide symptom relief by supporting your heart in pumping enough blood. Our team has innovated new uses for ventricular assist devices (VADs). We use VADs as:

  • Bridge to transplant: In the United States, too few donor hearts are available. We use VADs to keep people healthy and comfortable while they await a donor heart.
  • Bridge to decision: We also use VADs to buy time as we evaluate someone in acute heart failure to determine if they are a candidate for a heart transplant.

Corrective Surgery

To surgically correct underlying problems that cause heart failure, we offer:

  • Coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG), to clear the blocked heart arteries 
  • Heart valve surgery, to repair or replace faulty heart valves
  • Pericardiectomy, to remove a diseased membrane that surrounds the heart and prevents it from beating effectively
  • Septal myectomy, to maximize how much blood the heart can pump from the lower chambers

Multi-Organ Heart Transplant Program

When necessary, our transplant surgeons perform multi-organ transplants. Using advanced procedures and advanced technology, we deliver: 

  • Heart-kidney transplant 
  • Heart-liver transplant
  • Heart-lung transplant 

Penn surgeons replace diseased organs with healthy organs, often from the same donor. Multi-organ failure can result from diseases that impact the entire body, including cardiac amyloidosis. This condition leads to abnormal protein deposits building up in the heart and other vital organs.

In This Section

Transplant Process

Understand the heart transplant process and learn about the different stages here.

Events Calendar

View events for the Heart Transplant Program.

Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to frequently asked questions about heart transplants.

Heart Transplant - Clinical Trials

Penn Medicine offers information about current research and clinical trials that enhance our heart transplant program.

Patient Stories

Watch a video or read about a patient who successfully underwent a heart transplant at Penn Medicine.

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