Heart Transplant in Houston
Doctors affiliated with the Center
for Advanced Heart Failure at Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular
Institute-Texas Medical Center performed the facility’s first heart transplant
in October, 2012. Since then, it has
become one of the fastest-growing transplant programs in the United States –
completing more heart transplants than any other hospital in Houston. Certified by both the United Network for
Organ Sharing (UNOS) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
(CMS), the Institute strictly adheres to the ethical standards established by
these two organizations.
Detailed current data about the program is
available from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients.
Why Memorial Hermann Heart and Vascular-Texas Medical Center?
Heart & Vascular Institute at the Texas Medical Center is known for
innovation leading to outstanding outcomes. From isolating the genetic origins of
life-threatening thoracic aortic aneurysms to advanced imaging technology that
allows cardiologists to detect heart disease early enough to reverse it, The
Institute’s groundbreaking accomplishments put it among the leading heart
programs in the world.
Backed by a commitment to
excellence in care and research, the Institute’s role as the primary teaching
facility for the cardiology, and cardiothoracic and vascular surgery programs
at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical
School ensures patients access to cutting-edge programs and technology.
The Heart Vascular Institute-Texas Medical Center has earned
the Mission: Lifeline® Silver Achievement award from the American Heart Association
and is an accredited Chest Pain Center, recognized by the Society of
Cardiovascular Patient Care (SCPC) for the quality of care provided to patients.
Heart Vascular Institute-Texas Medical
Center was the first hospital in Houston to:
- Implant a transcatheter heart valve – allowing for
replacement of a diseased aortic valve without open heart surgery
- Perform minimally invasive surgery to correct atrial
- Give patients clot-dissolving drugs to stop heart
The first hospital in Texas
- Perform cardiac catheterization surgery
- Offer cardiac risk screening designed specifically for women
And the first hospital in
the world to show that heart disease can be reversed:
- Heart Vascular Institute-Texas Medical Center is home of the Weatherhead PET Center — the first-ever
institution dedicated to preventing and reversing coronary heart disease.
Heart Transplant Patient Stories
Steve's Story - Heart Transplant PatientWatch the video »
After several heart attacks and multiple unsuccessful attempts to manage his congestive heart failure, Steve sought a heart transplant team to begin a new journey.
Venola's Story - Hard-Won, Heart-Felt Victory
Venola was so overcome with joy at winning that the sweet victory did not sink in immediately. After all, it was only about 17 months after her lifesaving heart transplant.
Read the full story »
Clarence's Story - Double Heart Transplant
When Clarence Fontenot was in junior high, he wanted badly to play football. But when his mother took him for his required physical, he immediately failed to get clearance to join the team.
Read the full story »
When Is Heart Transplant Necessary?
transplant is a surgical procedure that replaces a diseased or defective heart
with a healthy heart from a donor. It is performed when other treatments for
coronary problems have not been effective. A transplant gives a patient with
congenital heart disease an opportunity to have a normal heart with normal
Conditions that could lead to a transplant
failure is staged on a four-point scale, the last of which is end-stage heart
failure. At this point, medications and other treatments become ineffective and
heart transplantation may become the only option.
Heart failure in
adults can be caused by:
- coronary artery disease
- cardiomyopathy: a weakening of the heart muscle
- heart valve disease or ventricular failure
- a congenital heart defect
- failure of a previous heart transplant
When is heart transplant an option?
have severe functional impairment with no medical or surgical therapeutic
options and are referred for transplantation undergo a rigorous medical,
psychological and social evaluation. On the basis of this evaluation, previous
medical records and psychosocial information, a decision is made by the Medical
Review Board at the Center for Advanced Heart Failure regarding the
advisability of cardiac transplantation.
Patients who are considered for transplantation:
- Suffer from
heart failure (defined as NYHA Class IIIB or IV), refractory to optimized
- Severe coronary artery disease with
intractable angina despite optimized medical therapy that is not amenable to bypass
surgery or angioplasty OR
- Malignant ventricular arrhythmias refractory
to all other accepted therapeutic modalities
- Are generally less than 70 years old
- Do not have multi-organ dysfunction
- Exhibit psychosocial stability and have a supportive social
- Demonstrate financial responsibility for
maintenance of post-transplant medications and testing
What conditions would prevent a transplant?
patients with advanced heart failure are eligible for a heart transplant.
Generally, those who meet one or more of these criteria are not recommended:
- 70 years of
age or older
- Suffer from another
medical condition that could shorten life, regardless of receiving a donor
- Have serious
blockages in the arteries in arms or legs (peripheral artery disease)
- Have a
personal medical history of cancer
- Are unwilling
or unable to make lifestyle changes that are necessary to keep a donor heart
healthy, including not drinking alcohol or smoking
Preparing For Heart Transplant
Approved transplant candidates
are placed on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) list while awaiting
transplant. During this time, the transplant team monitors the patient to
ensure his or her condition remains stable. Should the patient’s condition
begin to decline, other innovative procedures such as intravenous medications
and left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implantation may be recommended until
a compatible donor heart is located.
donor heart becomes available, the donor-recipient matching system considers
several factors in finalizing a match:
- The medical urgency of the potential
- Blood type compatibility (A, B, AB or O)
- Antibodies developed by the recipient
- Whether the donor organ is appropriately
- The time a potential recipient has spent on
the waiting list
Once a donor
heart has been identified, the patient is called to the hospital immediately,
where a thorough evaluation is conducted on the donor organ and the patient.
Heart Transplant Risk
What are the risks involved in a heart transplant procedure?
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.
risks can include:
- Donor organ dysfunction
- Hyperacute or acute rejection
- Kidney failure
Long-term risks can include:
- Coronary disease
- Chronic rejection
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.
Heart Transplant Surgery
The surgical process
transplant is performed under general anesthesia with the patent on a bypass
machine, which keeps oxygen-rich blood flowing throughout the procedure. It
generally lasts four to six hours, longer if the patient has had previous
coronary surgery or if there are complications. The surgeon exposes the
chest cavity and opens the pericardium. The diseased heart is removed, leaving
the back part of the left atrium in place. The donor heart is implanted and the
chest is closed. In some patients both heart and lungs may be
transplanted during the same procedure.
after surgery, patients receive pain control medication. A ventilator is used
to help a post-operative patient breathe and tubes are inserted in the chest to
drain fluids from around the lungs and heart.
The post-surgery hospital stay will last
one to two weeks. For about three months afterward, transplant recipients are
closely monitored on an outpatient basis, including blood work,
echocardiograms, electrocardiograms and heart biopsies.
After a heart transplant, patients must
make some permanent long-term adjustments, including:
immunosuppressants, which are required to prevent the immune system from
rejecting the new heart. These drugs may
cause some significant side effects, including weight gain, facial hair or
stomach problems, but many of these decrease in severity as time passes. Because they suppress the immune system,
however, a patient is more susceptible to infections, so the physician may also
prescribe anti-viral, anti-bacterial or anti-fungal drugs.
rehabilitation and lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and diet that
keep a transplanted heart healthy. Diets
may restrict calories, fluids, salt, fats, carbohydrates and/cholesterol and
exclude consumption of alcohol, which adversely affects the function of immunosuppressants
in preventing rejection.
- Emotional support to deal with the inevitable stress and changes that follow a transplant.
Memorial Hermann Hospital sponsors Mended Hearts, a support group for heart
patients, their families and caregivers,
at various locations throughout the metro area.
Heart Transplant Team
Our Medical Team
Our transplant patients are treated
by a dynamic, multidisciplinary team of highly skilled, board-certified
physicians whose specialties include cardiothoracic surgery, advanced heart
failure, transplantation, mechanical assist devices, video-assisted
surgery, and high-risk coronary intervention.
These affiliated physicians serve as principal investigators in national and
international research trials, giving patients access to new medical therapies,
innovative devices and technologies very quickly after their introduction.
highly skilled nurse clinicians guide each candidate for heart transplant
through the process from pre-surgery preparations to post-surgery follow up.
Throughout the evaluation and treatment process, referring physicians are kept
informed about patient progress. After a patient’s transplant, referring
physicians receive information on follow-up care, including immunosuppressants
and other medications, cardiac rehabilitation and any other patient
To refer a patient or for additional information regarding the heart transplant program at Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute please use our contact us page here »