A heart transplant can significantly improve the person’s quality of life and life expectancy. Heart transplant prognosis is favorable if the patient survives the first 30 days after surgery. Here are some more facts…
A heart transplant is a surgical process where a diseased heart is removed from a patient and is replaced with a donor heart. This process is made possible by a mechanical pump that circulates blood through the body during the surgery. During the lengthy procedure, the ‘new’ heart is linked to the major blood vessels and connected to a mechanism that temporarily controls the heartbeat.
However, waiting lists are long and there is a scarcity of donor organs, which is why they must be judiciously used, to provide maximum benefit. A person is a good candidate for transplantation of heart if he/she has end-stage heart disease, and is not responding or benefiting from the conventional therapy. Doctors advise patients to go for a transplant if they are unlikely to survive for more than a year, in the absence of a donor heart. Besides, people who do not suffer from other life-threatening conditions, other than heart ailment are also advised to go for transplantation. People who have to consider this option are often concerned about heart transplant life expectancy and success rate.
There are a number of factors that influence life expectancy after heart transplant. Some of these factors are as follows:
- Patient compliance, overall health of the patient
- Immunological match of donor to recipient
- Availability of advanced technology and expert medical advice
However, according to American Heart Association, as of June 5, 2009,
- The one-year survival rate was 88% for males and 77.2% percent for females.
- The three-year survival rate was about 79.3% percent for males and 77.2% percent for females.
- The five-year survival rate was 73.1% percent for males and 67.4% percent for females.
- Way back in the year two thousand, The Independent covered a story about a heart transplant survivor, in which it said that a 73-year-old American from Michigan had lived 24 years after the surgery.
Thus, in the best of circumstances, heart transplant life span can be quite longer.
The human heart transplantation success rate is related to the risk factors before transplantation. However, on an average, the success rate is close to 95% in most centers. The risks are heightened if:
- The patient is over 60 years of age.
- Is on a ventilator.
- Has an elevated panel reactive antibody level.
- Has had a previous heart transplant.
- Has high pressures in the pulmonary (lung) blood vessels.
However, even in such cases, there are 95% or higher chances of being initially successful. The first 30 days are crucial and if a patient lives through those, there is close to 90% chance that he/she will be alive at the end of the first year.
Our immune system protects us from potentially harmful substances. A ‘foreign’ organ and tissue in the body would almost always trigger an immune response, which would result in the destruction of the foreign tissue. In order to prevent this from happening, a patient is given strong immunosuppressive drugs. However, one of the major risks of heart transplant remains rejection of the donor heart by the body. Every 3 to 4 months after an organ transplant, a sample (biopsy) of the heart tissue is tested and an echocardiography, electrocardiography (ECG, EKG), or blood tests are also performed to check for rejection.
While immunosuppressant drugs are required to suppress your immune system so that it does not reject the donor heart, these drugs may have side effects, including an increased risk of infections and cancer. Steroids given may cause side effects such as infections, ulcers or bone loss.
Heart transplant is usually only considered when all other avenues have been exhausted. Even though it is not really a choice, people are often reluctant to consider it because of the cost and wait involved. However, it is also an option that offers hope. After a heart transplant, life expectancy is extended and usually a better quality of life is also achieved.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.