Heart Transplant

At UC San Diego Health, our heart transplant results exceed national standards.

Our heart transplantation program began in 1989 under the direction of internationally renowned cardiothoracic surgeon Stuart W. Jamieson, MB, FRCS. We performed our first heart transplant in 1990.

Now led by Drs. Marcus Anthony Urey, Victor Pretorius and Eric Adler, our heart transplant program — part of UC San Diego Health's Center for Transplantation — has grown to be the largest in San Diego and the third largest in California, placing it among the nation's top-performing transplant centers.

Learn More About Heart Failure Care

Why You May Need a Heart Transplant

A heart transplant is a treatment option for irreversible, life-threatening heart diseases that cannot be managed by other medical or surgical methods. You may need a new heart if you have some of these conditions.

Our Transplant Accomplishments

  • We are the first hospital on the West Coast to successfully perform heart transplant surgery from a donor after circulatory death (DCD), which can significantly decrease transplant waiting list times and improve patient outcomes.
    Read About This Groundbreaking Option
  • Our patient survival rates for heart transplants exceed the national average, placing us among the nation's best transplant centers by the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR).
    Get the Stats on Our High Survival Rates
  • We performed 95 heart transplants in 2023, demonstrating our experience in achieving a high volume of transplants safely and successfully.
  • We are the only hospital performing heart-lung and heart-liver transplants in San Diego County. We also perform heart-kidney transplants, among other multi-organ procedures.
  • UC San Diego Health is one of only two health systems in San Diego and eight in California offering ventricular assist devices (VADs). These mechanical pumps help a failing heart circulate blood while the patient awaits a heart transplant. Our patient success outcomes for VAD implants exceed national averages.
    Learn More About VADs 

Finding A Donor Heart

To reduce the chance of rejection, you must be paired with a heart that matches as close as possible to your tissue type. Body size is also important, as the heart must be able to fit comfortably inside the recipient's rib cage.

People waiting for a donor heart are assigned a status that indicates how urgently they need a transplant.

In 2020, we implemented a new method of heart organ recovery called donation after circulatory death (DCD). This method improves access to donor hearts. UC San Diego Health ranked #2 in the nation for DCD heart transplant volume in 2021, performing 36 DCD heart transplants.

Heart-Lung and Other Multi-Organ Transplants

When all other treatment options have failed in people with both heart and lung failure, a combined heart-lung transplant may be needed.

Conditions that most often need a heart-lung transplant include:

  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Congenital heart disease (birth defects of the heart that affect the lungs)

Our heart transplant team works closely with UC San Diego Health's lung transplant program to provide excellent patient care. Our lung transplant surgeons are experts in single lung, double lung and combination heart-lung transplantations.

We are the only hospital performing heart-lung and heart-liver transplants in San Diego County. We also perform heart-kidney transplants and other multi-organ procedures.

Learn About Multi-Organ Transplants

Paying for Your Transplant

Rely on our financial coordinator to help you with every financial aspect of your transplant surgery. UC San Diego Health accepts most major insurance plans for transplant services.

View Transplant Plans Accepted

Heart Transplant Evaluation

Before being considered for a heart transplant, you will need to undergo a comprehensive evaluation to determine if you are a candidate and to rule out alternative treatment options.

The evaluation will include consultation with our advanced heart failure physician, a physical exam and a thorough medical evaluation.

Exceptional Patient Care

We focus on comprehensive and compassionate patient care tailored to your needs, provided by a multidisciplinary team of experts in the fields of advanced heart failure, cardiac surgery and cardiac transplantation. This team guides patients and families through their entire transplant experience.

Patients awaiting a transplant at UC San Diego Health also benefit from access to the best technology and availability of organs.

When appropriate, we also offer alternatives to transplant, such as ventricular assist devices (VAD), which offer long-term mechanical assistance for your heart. You may also have opportunities to participate in the latest research trials.

Heart Transplant Support Group

For more information about events for heart transplantation and ventricular assist devices (VADs), call our Heart Transplant Program at 858-657-5050.

  • 10:30 - 11:30 a.m. on the third Wednesday of every month via Zoom.
  • Open only to pre- or post-transplant patients and their families and caregivers.
  • To register, please contact our Heart Transplant Program at 858-657-5050.


Cardiovascular Locations

See heart care locations conveniently located around San Diego County.

Support Our Patient Assistance Fund

Donations are vital in helping heart transplant recipients and VAD patients as well as their families. Your financial gift is deeply appreciated! Give now