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FAQs

Adult Heart Transplant



How is my care coordinated between my doctor and Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center?
What happens at the evaluation appointment?
What are the options available for someone accepted as a transplant candidate?
Who will coordinate my care at UCLA?
How do I prepare for transplantation?
How long will I be in the hospital?
Who will take care of my health needs after I leave the hospital?


How is my care coordinated between my doctor and Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center?

Your physician may contact the Ahmanson Cardiomyopathy Center at (310) 825-8816 to refer you for a transplant evaluation. Usually your referring physician will speak to the UCLA Transplant Cardiologist to discuss your medical condition and history. If you are deemed a possible candidate, an outpatient transplant evaluation will be arranged. If the patient is currently hospitalized, the transplant cardiologist, in collaboration with the transplant surgeon and coordinators, will make arrangements for patient transfer.


What happens at the evaluation appointment?

Most outpatient evaluations will be conducted over a period of two to three days. If appropriate, evaluations may also be conducted on an inpatient basis. During this period, you will see the transplant cardiologist, surgeon, transplant coordinator, psychiatrist, social worker, and financial counselor, as well as other specialists as needed. Several diagnostic tests may have to be performed to determine your candidacy for transplantation. Some of these tests may also be ordered through your referrring physician. It may take several weeks before all of the information is gathered that is necessary to complete the evaluation.
Once the evaluation is completed, each patient is presented and discussed at the weekly transplant conference. Members of the transplant team as well as various members of the hospital staff, including an ethicist, attend this conference. The team will discuss the case and make a decision regarding the candidacy of the patient for transplantation. The patient and the referring physician will be informed of the recommendation of the team.


What are the options available for someone accepted as a transplant candidate?

If the patient is deemed a suitable candidate for heart transplantation, he/she will also be considered for other forms of surgical therapy such as a left ventricular reduction surgery or a long-term assist device. These options will be discussed in detail with the patient and their family as well as the referring physician. Patients requiring a heart transplant will receive an organ from an individual who has been declared brain-dead. This individual has usually suffered a traumatic injury to the head that has left the organs functioning but the brain without blood flow. Once a patient has become brain-dead, hospital personnel will call the local organ procurement agency. Staff from that organization will ask the family about their wishes regarding donation. If the family is willing to donate, the donation process begins and the organs will be matched to waiting recipients. When a patient is accepted for heart transplantation, he/she will be listed as a potential recipient with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). This organization has a mission to ensure fair distribution of available organs and to minimize waste. Each transplant center is located within a designated region and potential recipients are on a regional list. Organs are offered to the patients who are the sickest who also match the blood type and size. If a match is not found within the region, organs are offered outside the region. The waiting time for a donor heart is dependent on several factors including the urgency for transplantation, size, and the blood type. The waiting time may vary from several days, when a heart is needed emergently, to months or years. While on the list, patients will be followed closely by their referring physician and the Ahmanson Cardiomyopathy Transplant Cardiologist. Any change in health condition will need to be communicated to the transplant team as soon as feasible. A change in health condition may mandate a change in urgency for heart transplantation.


Who will coordinate my care at UCLA?

During the pre-transplant period, a UCLA Transplant Cardiologist and a Clinical Nurse Specialist from the Ahmanson Cardiomyopathy Center will be assigned to you. While in the hospital following the transplant, you will see the Surgeon, Post-Transplant Cardiologist and specially trained Transplant Coordinators daily. The Coordinators will educate you and your family about the medications, the warning signs of rejection and daily activities. The Post-Transplant Cardiologist and the Coordinators will continue to follow you on return clinic visits and will be the primary contact personnel for any problems or questions. A transplant coordinator is on call 24 hours a day for any urgent matter or concerns you may have.


How do I prepare for transplantation?

During the waiting time for a donor, you will continue to be followed by your referring physician and the Ahmanson Transplant Cardiologist. Any change in medical condition needs to be communicated to the transplant team so that appropriate action can be taken. Planning ahead and making arrangements for child care, transportation and other assistance prior to the transplant, will help decrease anxiety about these issues after the transplant. It is often helpful to attend support groups where you and your family can meet other patients and learn more about what life will be like after the transplant. The UCLA social worker can assist in arranging participation in one of these groups.


How long will I be in the hospital?

The average length of stay for most recipients is 6-10 days. The transplant team will see you daily. Prior to discharge, the transplant coordinator will facilitate the organization of all services needed for transition from hospital to home. The transplant coordinator will provide education about all aspects of post-transplant care including medications, clinic visit schedule and daily activities.


Who will take care of my health needs after I leave the hospital?

During the first month after heart transplantation, the Post-transplant Cardiologist will see you regularly in the outpatient clinic and perform cardiac biopsies. A report of all of the visits and your progress will be sent to your referring physician who will also be seeing you for routine health maintenance and for non-transplant related problems. Depending on your needs and the resources available in your area, post-transplant care will either be continued by UCLA or provided by your local physician. The UCLA Post-transplant Cardiologist will always be available for consultation.


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