A heart transplant is a procedure that requires the replacement of a failing heart with a healthy one from a door. Doctors recommend this procedure as a last alternative when other heart treatments fail. India is one of the best countries when it comes to heart transplants. India has numerous heart transplant hospitals with the best cardiologists and cardiac surgeons.
The high survival rate for heart transplant patients makes it the safest place to have a heart transplant in South Asia. Technological improvement has led to new infrastructure adoption for improving organ transplants, especially heart transplants. Despite the challenges with organ donation, India provides the best services in organ transplants as it has the world-class surgical and organ transportation facilities.
When is a heart transplant performed?
Doctors recommend a heart transplant when other treatments for your heart problem are unsuccessful. Heart failure leads to a lack of proper functioning of other body organs due to a lack of oxygenated blood. In such an instance, the only solution is a replacement.
Some causes of heart failure include:
- Congenital heart defects where individuals are born with heart problems
- Dilated cardiomyopathy is a condition caused by abnormal thickening and enlargement of the heart, weakening its muscles.
- Valvular heart disease that involves defects or damage to the heart valves
- Severe coronary heart disease because of heart attack
- When a previous heart transplant fails
- Dangerous recurrence of arrhythmias that’s beyond control with other treatments
The risk involved with heart transplant
Several risks are associated with heart transplants since it’s a major operation. While some take time to show up, others occur immediately. Some of the risks include:
- Rejection of the donor’s heart- One of the significant risks involves rejection by the recipient’s body. The immune system perceives the heart as foreign and attacks it. Medications are available to reduce the risk, and you should take them as prescribed.
- Primary graft failure- This is a fatal condition whether the donor’s heart refuses to function. It’s the most common cause of death for heart transplant patients, and it occurs within the first three months of the procedure.
- Problems with the arteries- The walls of the arteries may thicken and harden after the transplant. This causes blood circulation difficulties leading to heart attack, heart failure, arrhythmias, or death.
- Infection and immunosuppressant’s side effects- these medications can lead to kidney damage and infections due to a suppressed immune system.
The procedure for getting a heart transplant in India
Due to the magnitude of the procedure, getting a heart transplant in India is a lengthy process. Patients undergo a screening process to ensure you’re eligible and then wait for a donor. The wait can be lengthy or short depending on the blood type, size, and the number of recipients on the waiting list.
Donated hearts must closely match your blood type and size. The doctors will monitor your heart to determine whether you need ventricular assist devices (VAD) as you wait. The VAD helps your heart function more efficiently for a time. However, if the heart failure is severe, the VAD may fail to work, creating the need for an immediate heart transplant.
Recipient evaluation and preparation
Having heart failure doesn’t guarantee a heart transplant. You must undergo a rigorous screening procedure to qualify for a heart transplant. Due to the nature of the procedure, you may not qualify to have it even though you may need it. The doctors in Indian heart transplant hospitals have to weigh several factors before recommending a heart transplant. These factors include
- Having an active infection that can lead to serious complications
- If the doctor determines that your recovery will be difficult
- Having cancer, or cancer in your family medical history
- If you have another condition that’s threatening your life, even when you have a healthy heart
- Being unwilling or incapable to care for your heart after a transplant
- Other organs must be healthy
- When a doctor is satisfied that you qualify for a heart transplant, they will send your name to a waiting list.
Heart Transplant surgery
A heart transplant surgery is an open heart process and takes several hours due to the complexity. It must take place within four hours after removing the heart from the donor’s body.
- The doctors will administer general anesthesia.
- You are then connected to a heart-lung bypass machine for oxygen-rich blood supply.
- The surgeon makes an incision to separate the chest bones and open the rib cage.
- They remove the failed heart and sew in the healthy ones and attach the blood vessels.
- After this process, the heart should beat normally, but the doctors can give an electric shock if the heart fails to beat.
- After the surgery, you are taken to the ICU for close monitoring a few days before transferring to a general ward, where you stay for a few weeks depending on your recovery process.
What to expect after and during heart transplant surgery
You’ll be unconscious during the heart procedure; hence, not much you can expect. However, after the procedure, you can expect the following:
- You will spend a few days in the ICU and a week or two in the general ward. How long you remain in the hospital rests on your recovery process.
- After leaving the hospital, there will be constant monitoring to ensure the body accepts the new heart. Due to the frequency of monitoring, you might be required to reside near the heart transplant hospital for the first three months if you’re in India.
- Doctors will conduct frequent biopsies to determine any rejection signs.
- You will have several types of medications, such as pain relievers and immunosuppressants.
- To lower infection risks, you have to make several lifestyle changes, including taking lifelong medications, cardiac rehabilitation, exercise, therapy, and diet.
Cost of a Heart Transplant Surgery in India
The cost of heart transplant surgery varies from one hospital to another. The average across Indian heart transplant hospitals is determined by many factors such as:
- The surgeon’s experience
- Fees for the medical team, such as surgeons, anesthesiologists, special nurses, and dieticians
- Diagnostic test cost
- Medication cost
- Hospital stay and outpatient facility