For more information on our recent data notice, please click here


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. 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. In addition, our results exceed national standards for heart transplantation for people with irreversible, life-threatening heart disease. 

Our Accomplishments

  • We are the first hospital on the west coast to perform heart transplant surgery from a donor after circulatory death, or DCD, which can significantly decrease transplant waiting list times and improve patient outcomes. More about this groundbreaking new 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). More about our high transplant survival rates.
  • We performed 85 heart transplants in 2021. This shows we have the experience to achieve 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.

Our program’s philosophy focuses on comprehensive and compassionate patient care tailored to the individual patient, 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 who are on the waitlist also 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.

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

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 longer than 6 hours. For this reason, donor hearts are often given to people awaiting transplant who live in close proximity to the hospital where the organs are recovered. However in 2020, we implemented a new method called donor after circulatory death, or 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, which has performing 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.

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.

 Video: Heart Transplant Recipients Form Unique Bond


  • 858-657-8530


Meet Our Specialists

See Also