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UC San Diego Health
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Heart Transplantation

UC San Diego Health's heart transplant program began in 1989 under the direction of internationally renowned cardiothoracic surgeon Stuart W. Jamieson, MB, FRCS. 

The program performed its first heart transplant in 1990 and has since performed over 175 heart transplants, with results that exceed national standards for heart transplantation for people with irreversible, life-threatening heart disease. In 2011, our surgeons were the first on the West Coast to implant an FDA-approved total artificial heart.

Our program’s philosophy focuses on comprehensive and compassionate patient care tailored to the individual patient, with the involvement of a multidisciplinary team of experts in the fields of advanced heart failure, cardiac surgery and cardiac transplantation. When appropriate, we also offer alternatives to transplant such as long-term mechanical assistance or opportunities to participate in the latest research trials.

Why Would Someone 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. These conditions may include:

  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Severe coronary artery disease
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Defects in heart valves leading to severe congestive heart failure

When is a Total Artificial Heart Used?

A total artificial heart (TAH) is a device that is used to replace both chambers of your heart. It is used to extend life in a very small group of people with end-stage heart failure who are waiting for a donor heart.

TAHs are very complex devices and difficult to install. Our physician-scientists are currently working on developing TAHs with fewer complications.

Finding A Donor Heart

To reduce the chance of rejection, you must be paired with a heart that matches as close as possibe 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.

The heart cannot survive outside of the body longer than 6 hours. For this reason they are often given to people awaiting transplant who live in close proximity to the hospital where the organs are recovered.

Heart-Lung 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, an international leader in lung transplantation and one of the busiest programs of its kind on the West Coast. Since 1989, the lung transplant team has performed more than 270 lung transplants and 20 heart-lung transplants with excellent results.

The lung transplant surgeons are experts in single lung, double lung and combination heart-lung transplantations. They are proud to have some of the longest surviving heart-lung transplant patients in the world.

Heart Transplant Evaluation

Before being considered for a heart transplant, you will need to undergo a comprehensive evaluation to deterine 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.

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Video: One Heart Goes to Two People in Rare Transplant

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A heart-liver transplant is a rare and complex procedure that can only be handled by an advanced teams with strong multidisciplinary collaboration. Less than 10 of these surgeries are performed in the U.S. each year. Learn more.

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