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Heart transplant - How a heart transplant is performed

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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A heart transplant normally takes between three and five hours.

The procedure is carried out under general anaesthetic, which means you will be put to sleep.

When you are asleep, you will be lying on your back on the operating table with your arms at your sides. A catheter (thin flexible tube) will be inserted to drain your bladder during and after the operation and you will be connected to a heart bypass machine. This acts as an artificial heart, circulating and oxygenating your blood while the heart transplant is being performed.

An incision (small cut) is made over your breastbone and the bone is separated so the surgeon has access to your heart. Your heart is removed, leaving behind a portion of the right and left atria (the top right chambers). The new heart is then connected to the aorta (main artery from the heart), pulmonary artery and the remaining part of the atria. When the heart begins to function and the medical team is happy, you will be taken off the bypass machine.

When the procedure is over, there will be drains (tubes) coming out of your chest. Your breastbone will have been closed with stainless steel wires and the tissues and skin will have been closed with dissolvable stitches.

You will wake up in the intensive care unit, attached by a tube in your throat to a ventilator and with a number of drips in your arms and neck.

Medical Review: June 23, 2010
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