Your journey toward heart transplant at Houston Methodist J.C. Walter Jr. Transplant Center begins with a thorough evaluation performed by our transplant team; we will start with a series of tests and assessments to give us an accurate picture of the severity of your condition and your fitness for surgery.
During your evaluation, you will also meet with a financial counselor to review insurance coverage and discuss the financial considerations associated with a heart transplant. A social worker will conduct a psychosocial evaluation to ensure that you and your family are emotionally prepared for the stress that often accompanies the heart transplant process.
While on the Wait List
All patients accepted by a transplant program are put on a national computer wait list kept by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) to ensure that all patients in need of a transplant are given fair access to donor organs. Rules, called allocation policies, have been established to determine how transplant candidates are ranked on the wait list for each type of organ.
During the waiting period
Once you are on the list, the wait for a donor organ begins. From the time you are placed on the list, you need to be ready to receive a transplant. You will be seen in the transplant clinic every two to three months for labs and follow-up appointments. During the waiting period, you and your caregivers are encouraged to attend our education classes on the transplant process.
The Heart Transplant Surgery
Before the heart transplant, your anesthesiologist will talk with you and explain what will occur during the surgery. You will be given general anesthesia so you will be asleep. You will be in the operating room for about four to eight hours.
After Heart Transplant Surgery
When you wake after surgery, you will be moved to the intensive care unit. The transplant team will help you manage any pain you may experience after surgery. Most patients find their pain decreases within a day or two. Getting out of bed and walking may help reduce pain. Your stay in the hospital may last up to 10 days or as long as your transplant team feels is necessary.
Going Home and Staying Healthy
You will continue your recovery at home; during the first eight weeks, your daily activities will have some limits, including not lifting anything more than 10 to 15 pounds. You may return to most normal activities within a few months.
The transplant team will monitor your progress during recovery, so you must be available for clinic appointments, lab tests and echocardiograms; this way, they can determine how well your new heart is working.
About a year after surgery, you will likely only need to meet with the transplant team twice a year.
To take care of your new heart for the long term, we will work with you to create a healthy diet and exercise plan – one that will help you regain your strength and reduce the risks of heart disease, high blood pressure and fluid retention.
To learn more about what to expect regarding the general transplant process and what issues you will need to address once you return home after your transplant, view the About Your Transplant page.
You can also learn more about the experience of being a Houston Methodist transplant patient through these stories.
- Cloyd Powell talks about how a ventricular assist device helped him stay alive and active until he could undergo transplant surgery.
- Brian Gilliam’s new heart got him back on the golf course and back into life with his family .
- See how heart transplantation gave Rochelle Johnson her life back with her children .
Our physicians specialize in heart transplantation at the following locations.