Who needs a heart transplant?

Heart transplant surgery may be considered if you have severe heart failure. If your condition is serious and other treatments are not managing to improve things or control your symptoms, your cardiologist may send you to a heart transplant centre for a transplant assessment.  

Your assessment will determine whether you need a transplant and whether you are suitable for one. Based on your assessment, you may be considered:

  • Suitable for a transplant, in which case you will be put onto the transplant waiting list. This means you could be called for a transplant at any time.
  • Potentially suitable for a transplant, but the consultants do not think your condition is severe enough to put you on the waiting list. If this happens your case will be reviewed regularly. If your condition gets worse, you will go on the waiting list.
  • In need of further investigations or treatment. This means that more information is needed before a decision is made.
  • Unsuitable for a heart transplant. This could be for a number of reasons. The transplant team will explain why you are not suitable and discuss other treatments.

How long is the wait?

Donor hearts may come from anywhere in the UK or occasionally from other countries in Western Europe. The team will try to reduce as much as possible the amount of time between removing the heart from the donor and transplanting it into you.

When considering whether a heart is a good match, the team will look at the quality of the heart, the size, and importantly, how well it matches your blood and tissue type.

If you are considered suitable for a heart transplant you will be added to the transplant waiting list. Once you are on the list, a suitable heart may come along within a few days or it may take many months or even years.

Unfortunately, suitable hearts do not become available for everyone and only 8 out of 10 people receive the heart transplant they require. Around half the people accepted onto the heart transplant waiting list receive a transplant within three years.