Transplant surgery

There is close communication between the donor hospital and Abbott Northwestern Hospital. When the donor heart is ready to be transported, your surgery has already started:

  • The surgeon opens your breast bone.
  • A heart-lung bypass machine delivers oxygen to your blood and circulates the blood to the body so the old heart can be removed.
  • The surgeon sews the donor heart into place by attaching it to the vessels below:
    • major blood vessels (aorta and pulmonary artery)
    • superior vena cava and inferior vena cava 
  • The surgeon may make changes if needed.
  • As blood is allowed to flow into the donor heart, it will often start to beat on its own. Sometimes, an electrical shock is used.
  • The surgeon will close your chest and you will be taken to the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit.
  • Transplant surgery takes four to six hours.
  • Members of your care circle (family members, friends, or others close to you that are not part of your health care team) will be updated on the progress of your surgery.

Hospital stay

After several days in the Intensive Care Unit, you will be moved to an Intermediate Care Unit until you are ready to go home.

You can expect to be in the hospital one to two weeks, or longer if needed.

Recovery at home

Once you return home, you will have many appointments at the transplant clinic for biopsies, checkups and blood tests. If you live outside the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, you may need to stay in the local area for up to several weeks before returning home.

During the first few weeks to months at home, you will be able to regain independence and confidence.

It is important to remember that the goal of the transplant is to allow you to continue your normal life, including work, school and other activities. Most patients are physically able to resume these activities within three months.

Reaching all of your goals may take longer than you think. Talk with members of your transplant team about your goals, progress and any problems you have along the way. They will help you achieve the highest quality of life possible.

Follow-up directions

There are many new things to learn and guidelines to follow. Sticking with these changes can be difficult. Your transplant team members believe in your ability to make your transplant a success.

Here are some tips for your success:

  • It is important that you take your medicines as directed.
  • Keep all clinic and lab appointments.
  • Call your transplant coordinator if you:
    • need any information about tests or procedures
    • have questions, problems or concerns
  • Remember: your health care team is here to help you.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Care After Heart Transplant, cvs-ah-95405 (1/18)
First Published: 01/06/2013
Last Reviewed: 01/19/2018