Taking the first steps
If your doctor recommends that you consider a heart transplant, you’ll likely be referred to a heart transplant center for an evaluation. You’re also free to select a transplant center on your own. Check with your health insurance provider to see which transplant centers are covered under your insurance plan.
When evaluating a heart transplant center, consider the number of heart transplants a center performs each year and transplant recipient survival rates. You can compare transplant center statistics on the web using a database maintained by the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients.
Also consider additional services that may be provided by a transplant center. Many centers may coordinate support groups, assist with travel arrangements, help you find local housing for your recovery period or direct you to organizations that can help with these concerns.
Once you decide where you would like to have your heart transplant, you’ll need to have an evaluation to see if you’re eligible for a transplant. During an evaluation, your doctors and transplant team will conduct a physical examination, order several tests, and evaluate your mental and emotional health. The evaluation will check to see if you:
- Have a heart condition that would benefit from transplantation
- Might benefit from other less aggressive treatment options
- Are healthy enough to undergo surgery and post-transplant treatments
- Will agree to quit smoking, if you smoke
- Are willing and able to follow the medical program outlined by the transplant team
- Can emotionally handle the wait for a donor heart
- Have a supportive network of family and friends to help you during this stressful time
Your transplant team will also discuss with you the benefits and risks of a transplant and what to expect before, during and after a transplant.