How Are Heart Transplant Recipients Selected?

by Jodee on December 6, 2009

Have you ever wondered how decisions about who should be given a heart transplant are made? The surgery has successfully been performed on newborn babies, as well as senior citizens. Unfortunately, not everyone who needs a new heart will receive one since there is a shortage of organs available for transplant.

A heart (or any other organ) may only be harvested and used for transplant purposes if the donor is brain dead and on a respirator. The next of kin must consent to the procedure as well. This can be difficult choice for people who are struggling to cope with the death of a loved one.

The person who is a good candidate for a heart transplant is someone who has heart disease and who is likely to have an increased life expectancy or quality of life afterward. A person who has had previous heart surgery or who currently has diabetes will not necessarily be excluded from the list of potential heart transplant recipients. Likewise, having undergone treatment for cancer doesn’t necessarily mean that a person can’t be put on the list.

Reasons a Heart Transplant Candidate may be Excluded

A person may be excluded from being placed on the heart transplant list if they have severe pulmonary disease or malignancies which have not yet been treated.


A person with an untreated addiction to chemicals or a substance is also not a good candidate for a heart transplant.

Following the surgery, the individual must follow a specialized treatment plan set out by his or her doctors. The patient will need to take anti-rejection drugs which cause a number of side effects, including the potential for weight gain and retaining fluid. A heart-healthy diet helps to counteract them, and is a good choice for overall health as well.

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