Heart transplants

A heart transplant is required in cases of heart failure. Coronary heart disease can lead to heart failure. The heart fails to pump sufficient blood and organs are starved of oxygen. There are different degrees of severity of heart failure.

A donor heart is transplanted. In rare cases, a heart is transplanted along with lungs.

A consultant doctor assesses the patient's condition. If other treatments are not managing the heart condition, a transplant may be recommended and a patient will be put on a waiting list. A transplant puts major strain on the body, and the benefits and risks will be evaluated, including whether the patient's condition is sufficiently severe and other health factors.

There is a shortage of donor hearts in the UK. Only around 200 transplants are carried out each year in a small number of hospitals.

Artificial hearts are plastic devices used occasionally to keep patients alive whilst waiting for a heart transplant. They can also be used to allow a patient's heart to rest to help it recover.

An illustration of an artificial heartArtificial heart

After the transplant, the patient will:

  • need time to heal, recover and build up strength
  • have to take drugs called immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their life - this prevents the person's immune system from rejecting the donor heart
  • have an increased risk of infection because of these drugs