Heart Transplants

When medical and surgical therapies are not enough, our physicians consider heart transplantation. The University of Chicago Medicine has an internationally renowned transplant center, where heart transplants have been performed for more than two decades. Our cardiac surgeons have performed hundreds of heart transplants, earning acclaim for their surgical expertise.

Larry Matthews Larry Matthews realized his dream of becoming a firefighter after receiving a heart transplant. »Read his story

Large, Growing Program

Our heart transplant program is one of the largest in the Midwest. We've achieved this success while keeping a remarkably short average waiting time for transplant.

Our Approach: Total Transplants

At the University of Chicago, our physicians perform "total heart transplants" -- an approach that proves to be more physiologically sound than how transplants are done at most medical centers.

Video: Animation of a Total Heart Transplant

View a brief animation that describes the difference between a total heart transplant and a standard heart transplant. (1 minute, 3 seconds) Transcript (PDF)

At other hospitals, surgeons remove most of the diseased heart--keeping some parts intact--and then graft on the new heart using four connections. In a total heart transplant, all of the diseased heart is removed, and the full donor heart is implanted at six locations. Our surgeons have found that with a total transplant, the donor heart holds up better over time, heart rhythm is better preserved, and patients can exercise easier. University of Chicago surgeons were among the first in the world to perform this improved transplant method.

High Success Rates

The outlook for patients who have heart transplants here is excellent--our results are among the best in the nation. Over the last five years, our success rates have exceeded the national average.

We Welcome Complex Cases

Experts in multi-organ transplant

A large number of our patients are considered high-risk, including those who require re-transplantation. In addition, we are one of the most experienced medical centers in the world that can offer multiple organ transplantation. Our cardiac surgeons collaborate with other University of Chicago transplant surgeons to perform heart-lung, heart-liver, heart-kidney-pancreas, or other multiple organ transplant combinations.

Video: Heart & Kidney Transplant: Kenneth's Story

After being turned down for transplant by six different hospitals, Kenneth Woodka looked to the University of Chicago Medicine for help. (three minutes, 7 seconds) Transcript (PDF)

Our surgeons can perform transplants on patients who may fall outside of traditional transplant criteria, including some older patients. We have performed successful transplants on patients who have been rejected for transplant by other medical centers. Conversely, some patients referred to us for transplant learn they may not need a transplant. In these cases, our heart experts can offer other solutions to treat underlying disease.

Dr. Jeevanandam and patient Valluvan Jeevanandam, MD, chief of cardiac and thoracic surgery, has performed more than 1,000 heart transplants.

Ventricular Assist Devices

Some patients with failing hearts can be helped with ventricular assist devices -- special implantable pumps that boost the pumping ability of the heart. In most cases, these pumps are used in patients who are awaiting transplant. However, some devices can be permanently implanted in patients who are not candidates for transplant, a treatment approach known as "destination therapy."

Fluid Management During Surgery

University of Chicago heart surgeons have pioneered new approaches to reducing the risk for kidney injury during surgery. In 2003, our surgeons were the first in the world to use the latest venous ultrafiltration technology to maintain fluid levels during heart failure surgery. For patients with kidney dysfunction, our physicians have refined techniques for perioperative hemofiltration. These sophisticated machines filter and control fluid levels during surgery to minimize kidney injury and reduce the need for dialysis.

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