Heart Transplant Contributions by ColleenO

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Possible Complications

If you are planning to have a heart transplant, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

  • Infection
  • Rejection of the new heart
  • Coronary artery disease (50% of all heart-transplant recipients develop coronary artery disease)
  • Pneumonia
  • Blood clots
  • Bleeding
  • Decreased brain function
  • Damage to other body organs, like the kidneys
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Anesthesia-related problems
  • Infection or cancer related to taking immunosuppressive medicines
  • Death

More than 80% of heart transplant patients live for at least one year after surgery. Most return to normal activities, including work and exercise.

Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

  • Age: 60 or older
  • Lung disease
  • Poor circulation
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Smoking
  • Presence of serious active infection, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis
  • Treatment for cancer within the past five years
  • Debilitation and malnourishment
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Previous stroke or other damage to the blood vessels of the brain
  • Continued substance abuse or alcohol abuse
  • Autoimmune disease

Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the procedure.

Call Your Doctor

After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the incision site
  • Changes in sensation, movement, or circulation in your arms or legs
  • Changes in the location, type, or severity of pain
  • Chest pain, pressure, or a return of your previous heart pain
  • Fast or irregular heart rate
  • Pain that is unrelieved
  • Cough, or shortness of breath
  • Coughing up blood
  • Severe nausea or vomiting
  • Sudden headache or feeling faint
  • Waking up at night due to being short of breath
  • Excessive tiredness, swelling of feet
  • Pain, burning, urgency, frequency of urination, or persistent bleeding in the urine

In case of an emergency, call 911.

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