Veteran Sean Dobbs was facing end-stage heart failure, but a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) helped him regain his health as he awaited a donor heart. Find out how this procedure and his subsequent heart transplant not only saved his life, but changed its direction as well.
UC San Diego Health's heart transplant 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.
Our heart transplant program is now the largest in San Diego and the third largest in California, placing it among the nation's top performing transplant centers. We performed over 50 heart transplants in 2018.
In addition, our results 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:
- Severe coronary artery disease
- Congenital heart defects
- Defects in heart valves leading to severe congestive heart failure
Heart transplant recipients meet their donors' families.
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.
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 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, which has performed 22 heart-lung transplants since 1990. 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, among other multi-organ procedures.
Learn more 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.