Heart Transplant

A heart transplant is a procedure to replace a diseased heart with a healthy donor heart. The surgery is reserved for patients for whom other medications and treatments have failed. It is a major operation but can increase your chance of survival and your quality of life.

Heart Transplant Surgery: Experienced Team in Virginia

Sentara was the first health care organization in Hampton Roads to offer a heart transplant, and we have transplanted more than 300 patients since 1989. If your physician feels you are a good candidate for a heart transplant, he/she will make a referral to the transplant team. A transplant coordinator will then conduct a very thorough evaluation.

End-Stage Heart Disease: Treatment Options

With the experience gained in the late 1970s and early 1980s, heart transplant surgery has evolved to become a treatment option for select patients with end-stage heart disease. Most commonly, patients who undergo transplants have cardiomyopathy and coronary artery disease.

Heart Transplant Program at Sentara Heart

The heart transplant program at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital (SNGH) was established in 1989 to enhance the already well-established and nationally recognized cardiac surgery and renal transplant programs.

Heart Transplant: What to Expect

The surgery takes approximately four hours. We give you general anesthesia so you remain asleep and pain free during the procedure.

Here is what you can expect:

  1. We will connect you to a heart-lung bypass machine, which keeps your heart pumping and blood flowing during the surgery.
  2. Your surgeon removes the diseased heart and replaces it with a donor heart
  3. We verify that the new heart is beating properly; sometimes, we need to use an electric shock to get the heart started.
  4. After the surgery, we will manage your pain with medication. You will also be on a ventilator to help you breathe.

Learn more about heart transplant in the Cardiac Media Library.

Heart Transplant Recovery

You will most likely remain in the hospital for a week or two. Then, once you are discharged, you will need to have follow-up appointments at an outpatient transplant center for a few months. We will monitor you to make sure your new heart is functioning properly.

You will need to make certain lifestyle changes after a heart transplant surgery. These include:

  • Taking an immunosuppressant, medication that decreases your immune system’s activity in order to prevent it from attacking your new heart. These medications may cause side effects. Your heart transplant team will discuss how to manage these side effects.
  • Taking medications regularly. We will help you set up a schedule to make sure you take your medications regularly every day.
  • Cardiac rehabilitation. Our cardiac rehabilitation program to help your heart regain its strength. Learn more about cardiac rehabilitation at Sentara.

Heart Transplant Surgery: A Team Approach

Our heart transplant team consists of expert heart specialists with special training in heart transplant surgery. Your transplant coordinator will coordinate all aspects of your care.

Our heart transplant team includes:

  • Cardiologists
  • Cardiothoracic surgeons
  • Dedicated infectious disease specialist
  • Immunologist
  • Nurse practitioner
  • Certified transplant coordinators
  • Pharmacists
  • Social workers
  • Support personnel dedicated to the care of heart transplant patients

Heart Transplant at Sentara: Patient-Focused Care

Patients, their families and their referring physicians are important members of the team as well. We make every effort to include them in decision making throughout the heart transplant process. We encourage our patients to continue seeing their primary care physicians for ongoing care, including annual examinations, vaccines and other medical needs. 

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