Seeking a heart transplant can be a period of much uncertainly and concern. You may have a number of questions for your doctors. It is important to educate yourself about the procedure and long-term precautions that you may need. Here are certain myths and facts about heart transplant surgery.
Myth: Any heart patient can get a heart transplant
Fact: The screening process for a heart transplant is complex. A patient is chosen as an eligible candidate only if all other therapies are exhausted. It must be deemed that the patient cannot survive without the transplanted heart. Also, the patient must be in good health other than the heart condition. This means that no other major organ is severely diseased and no other active infections exist. Besides, severely obese patients are not deemed good candidates. After a psychological and health assessment the patient is placed on the transplant list and notified when a donor heart is available.
Myth: If a family member is the donor, the heart will match the recipient
Fact: Donors for heart transplant are deceased or brain dead due to trauma or injury and kept on life support system for organ retrieval purposes. This is done under the Transplantation of Human Organ Act (THOA) and the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissue Rules. There are a number of tests that determine the eligibility of the donor organ for a particular patient. Your hospital and primary care providers are best suited to advice you about the requirements. A family member may not always be the best donor or may not even match your blood type.
Myth: Every cardiac specialist can perform a heart transplant surgery
Fact: A heart transplant is a very complex surgery. Cardiac specialists may be internal medicine specialists or surgeons. There may be surgeons specializing in Interventional Cardiology, Electrophysiology, and other forms of minimal or highly invasive surgeries. Care Hospitals are among the top ranked heart specialist hospitals in the country. Their cardiology panel includes a number of highly experienced heart transplant specialists with a number of successful procedures to their credit.
Myth: A transplanted heart never functions optimally
Fact: Heart transplant undoubtedly comes with a number of risks, including organ rejection. A great number of heart transplant patients (about 80%), however, go on to live for at least two years. Over half the patients live over 10 years after the transplant. Most of them are able to live normal, active lives and enjoy work and sporting activities.
Myth: A matched donor heart cannot be rejected
Fact: Our body’s immune system looks for foreign organisms and cells that could lead to infection and attempts to destroy them. Any transplanted organ could be attacked by the body’s natural immune system and this is called “organ rejection”. If you are planning a heart transplant in India, it is likely that your doctor will put you on drugs called immunosuppressants to avoid such a rejection. You may need these for a very long time and it is important that you discuss this drug regimen with your doctor and adhere to it.
Myth: I will not need treatment after a heart transplant
Fact: A heart transplant is certainly a new lease of life. This, however, does not mean that you will no longer require treatment. Most transplant recipients are prescribed immunosuppressants for the rest of their lives. Taking these could, however, increase the risk of infections and cause other side effects. This makes long term treatment necessary. Apart from this, recipients are also advised to make lifestyle changes (including going on a healthy diet and exercising regularly).