Do You Need a Heart Transplant?

Heart failure occurs when your heart struggles to pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs. Medications or heart devices can sometimes alleviate the resulting stress on your heart.

Even with these interventions, your heart can weaken to the point that you no longer enjoy a good quality of life. If so, your doctor may recommend a transplant. At Henry Ford, our experienced specialists can help make that crucial determination and provide new hope.

Signs of heart failure

Heart failure signs include:

  • Tiring easily
  • Getting unusually short of breath
  • Experiencing swelling in your ankles, legs and feet

Causes of heart failure

Heart failure may result from:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Valvular heart disease
  • Refractory arrhythmia
  • Other life-threatening cardiac problems

Screening for heart transplant surgery

You must undergo health tests to determine whether a heart transplant is right for you. Tests may include:

  • Complete physical exam
  • Blood tests for diabetes, cholesterol and other health conditions
  • Blood and tissue typing
  • Heart tests, such as:
    • Echocardiogram (ECG)
    • Electrocardiogram (EKG)
    • Holter monitor
    • Stress test
  • Chest X-rays
  • Lung function tests
  • Dental checkup
  • Abdominal ultrasound

Additional heart transplant requirements

To move forward with the heart transplant process, you also must meet certain criteria:

  • Complete a psychosocial evaluation: This mental health screening identifies concerns that may negatively affect the transplant process and your recovery.
  • Abstain from substance use: You must not consume alcohol or use tobacco products or prohibited substances for at least 6 months prior to your transplant. You should avoid these substances after your transplant as well. Henry Ford offers addiction treatment and tobacco treatment services.
  • Establish a support system: You will need a stable support system of caregivers who can look after you during your recovery.

FAST Track Program for heart transplant candidates

The Henry Ford FAST Track Program quickly moves you through the pre-transplant evaluation process. If your health tests are up-to-date, you may be added to the heart transplant waitlist in less than 2 weeks, as opposed to the standard 2 months. A transplant coordinator will assist you with this process.

Advanced heart failure treatment options

Depending on the severity of your heart condition, you might need the temporary help of a mechanical support device until a donor heart becomes available. A ventricular assist device (VAD) can help your heart pump blood while you wait for a transplant. This approach is known as bridge to transplant.

VADs also can serve as a long-term treatment option if you are unable to get, or do not want, a heart transplant. This approach is known as destination therapy.

Learn more about mechanical circulatory support.

Take the next step

Speak with a Transplant Institute specialist.