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Heart Transplant Risk

What are the risks involved in a heart transplant procedure?

Although receiving a donor heart can save a person’s life, transplantation is an open-heart surgical procedure accompanied by serious risks, the most significant of which is rejection. All heart transplant recipients receive immunosuppressants (medications that reduce the activity of the immune system), but about one in four have some signs of rejection during the first year after surgery. Usually the rejection has no symptoms and requires only an adjustment of medications.

Short-term risks can include:

  • Arrhythmia
  • Bleeding
  • Stroke
  • Donor organ dysfunction
  • Hyperacute or acute rejection
  • Infection
  • Kidney failure

Long-term risks can include:

  • Cancer
  • Coronary disease
  • Chronic rejection
  • Hypertension
  • Infection

Although the specific risks and potential benefits of a heart transplant vary for each patient, Memorial Hermann-affiliated physicians will discuss all possibilities in detail and take strict precautions to decrease these risks.