Heart Transplant

At UC San Diego Health, our heart transplant results for people with irreversible, life-threatening heart disease 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. Victor Petorius and Eric Adler, our heart transplant program 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.

Also see Heart Failure Care

Why Would You 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 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 85 heart transplants in 2021, 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.
  • In 2011, our surgeons were the first on the West Coast to implant an FDA-approved total artificial heart.

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 code that indicates how urgently they need a transplant.

Normally, the heart cannot survive outside of the body for longer than six hours. That's why donor hearts are often given to people awaiting transplants who live in close proximity to the hospital where the organs are recovered.

In 2020, however, we implemented a new method called donor after circulatory death (DCD), which uses a new portable organ care system that keeps the heart viable longer, improving 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 Multi-Organ Transplants

When all other treatment options have failed in people with both heart and lung failure, a combined heart-lung transplant is 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)

We work closely with UC San Diego Health's lung transplant program. 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

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 a physical exam as well as blood and heart testing, drug screening, tissue typing, ultrasounds and chest X-ray.

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 on the transplant waitlist benefit from this team approach as well as access to the best technology and availability of organs.

When appropriate, we also offer alternatives to transplant such as long-term mechanical assistance or opportunities to participate in the latest research trials.

Cardiovascular Locations

See heart care locations conveniently located around San Diego County.