Waiting for a donor organ
If the transplant team determines that you’re a candidate for a heart transplant, the transplant center will register you on a waiting list. At any given time, there are about 3,000 people in the U.S. waiting for heart transplants. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough hearts for every person in need, and some people die while waiting for a transplant.
While you’re on the waiting list, your medical team will closely monitor your condition and alter your treatment as needed. Your transplant team may temporarily remove your name from the waiting list if you develop a significant medical condition, such as a severe infection or stroke, which makes you temporarily unable to have a transplant while you recover.
Your doctors may recommend that you participate in a cardiac rehabilitation program while you wait for a donor heart. Cardiac rehabilitation is a program of exercise and education designed to help improve your health before and after your heart transplant.
If medical therapy fails to support your vital organs as you wait for a donor heart, your doctors may recommend you have a device implanted to support your heart while you wait for a donor organ, such as a ventricular assist device (VAD). These devices are also referred to as a bridge to transplant because they stabilize your condition until a donor heart is available.
When a donor heart becomes available, the donor-recipient matching system considers several factors to make a match, including:
- Medical urgency of potential recipients
- Blood type (A, B, AB or O)
- Antibodies the recipients may have developed
- Size of the donor
- Time spent on the waiting list