Heart Transplant: When and how it’s done

Heart Transplant: When and how it’s done

Heart transplants are incredibly serious operations which take a great deal of time, consideration and skill. When it comes to having a heart transplant, you want a heart doctor who has the knowledge and experience required to give you the absolute highest chance of success.

At The Harley Street Heart and Vascular Centre, our expert heart doctor is tried and tested when it comes to taking care of your heart. We understand the needs of patients going through the challenging times that heart problems present and we take every necessary precaution and make every preparation so that you can go back to living a happy, full life. So if you’re looking for the best heart transplant in Singapore, keep reading.

What Is A Heart Transplant?

As it sounds, a heart transplant is the process of removing your heart and replacing it with another heart. A heart transplant is a big operation. It requires a long recovery period and is only performed when no other treatment options are available or working.

The Importance of a Heart Transplant

Heart Transplant: When and how it’s done

Before we get into the when and how of a heart transplant, first we should consider who actually needs one. In the end stages of heart failure, the heart muscles are no longer functioning properly. Damaged muscles mean that the heart can no longer pump blood effectively around the body and cardiac treatments and medication are mostly ineffective at this stage. Without a transplant, your life could be shortened, and a heart transplant is the only way to survive.

The conditions that may have led you to this point can include:

  • Coronary Heart Disease is the result of fatty substances that have built up in the arteries which supply your heart. The blockage causes a disruption in blood to your heart, which slowly but surely weakens it.
  • Congenital Heart Disease is a birth defect which affects your heart structure by disrupting the way blood flows to and through your heart.
  • Cardiomyopathy is another disease which affects the heart muscles resulting in thickened and stiff heart walls. Those suffering from cardiomyopathy will find their hearts unable to effectively pump blood around the body.
  • Arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat that affects both the speed and pattern and can become serious if not monitored.
  • Heart Valve Disease is, as the name implies, a disease where one or more of your heart valves aren’t functioning properly which steadily weakens your heart.

If any of the above diseases progress to life threatening stages, your heart doctor may suggest a heart transplant.

How will your heart doctor know you need a heart transplant?

Heart transplants aren’t issued without cause. The scarcity of available and suitable hearts to transplant being one reason. You will first need to undergo an extensive evaluation by experts and must be considered a suitable case to proceed. These tests range from blood tests, diagnostic tests and a psychological exam. Your medical history, age, whether you have had other severe diseases and even your alcohol and drug history affect whether or not a heart transplant is recommended. You are more likely to get a heart transplant if you are under the age of 60, and all other medical interventions have been ruled out. If you are likely to die without a transplant then you will be prioritized, and if you are in general good health and able to adhere to the recovery process to take care of the new heart, then you are a good candidate. Heart doctors will not recommend heart transplants for anyone where it is not optimal in safety.

How long will you wait for a heart donor?

When a person dies, their heart can theoretically be used in a heart transplant to give another person a chance at a healthier and happier life. However not just anyone can donate a heart. The donor must meet certain criteria for their heart to be eligible. In Singapore, the Human Organ Transplant Act (HOTA), permits 4 organs, usually the kidneys, heart, liver and cornea to be harvested for transplantation. Unlike in other countries, any Singaporean or Permanent Residents over the age of 21 and without mental disability are able to donate automatically. And those who are on the list to donate under HOTA and do not opt out, will have a higher priority in receiving an organ if they need a heart or organ transplant in future. There is no standard waiting time to receive a heart. Your cardiologist will be able to give you an estimate on waiting times.

What happens during a heart transplant?

Surprisingly, a heart transplant only takes between 4 and 5 hours. After arriving at the hospital and settling in, you will be put into a deep sleep and set up on an IV. The heart doctor creates an incision in your chest and your breastbone is cut in half to access your heart. From there, your surgeon will separate, detach and remove your heart, before replacing it and reattaching the new one. Afterwards, the heart doctor will monitor your heart to ensure that everything is attached correctly and they will allow you to wake up. You won’t initially feel any pain as you will be on heavy medication. It might take a few hours to feel normal again, and you will need to continue on the pain medication until the doctor says otherwise.

How long does it take to recover after a heart transplant?

Heart transplants are serious procedures and require a hospital stay of around 7 to 14 days post op. During this time you will be closely monitored to ensure that the new heart is functioning properly and that you are able to resume your daily life. In total, recovery and rehabilitation will take around 6 months or longer, depending on how you proceed. At this point, you can breathe, knowing you have a healthy heart and can live a happy life. Your cardiologist will want to see you for some follow ups, and will give you resources and information on how to maintain your heart health going forward. There will be certain exercise and activities best avoided at the start of your recovery, but all of this information will be provided.

The cost of a heart transplant in Singapore

In 2022, the average heart transplant costs up to $250k depending on the level of service provided. This only covers the cost of the procedure, not the tests and treatments you might have had beforehand. In many cases, insurance will cover some or all of your treatment and it is a good idea to speak to your insurer before booking any treatments, and bringing all your insurance documents to the clinic with you when attending appointments.

Ultimately, you want to find the best heart doctor for your situation, regardless of the cost. At The Harley Street Heart and Vascular Centre Dr Michael MacDonald have been involved in many heart transplants after many decades of training. You can be assured of top quality skills, aftercare and recovery outcomes when booking with us.

Contact us

If you’re ready to begin discussing your heart transplant, please get in touch with us today. Your heart health is of great importance to not just yourself, but to us too. We want to assure you that we’ll take every necessary measure to ensure that your operation is a success. Book in for an appointment to discuss your cardiological needs.

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