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Heart Transplant


A heart transplant is surgery to replace your heart with a healthy, donor heart.



  • Antirejection medicine: These help prevent your body from rejecting your new heart. You may need to take this medicine for the rest of your life.
  • Heart medicine: You may need medicines to control your heartbeat and blood pressure.
  • Pain medicine: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take this medicine.
  • Cholesterol medicine: These decrease the amount of cholesterol in your blood.
  • Antimicrobial medicine: These prevent a bacterial or fungal infection.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your cardiologist or heart surgeon as directed:

You will need to return to have follow-up tests, your stitches or chest drains removed, or other procedures. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.


You may still have wires in your chest that connect to a pacemaker to keep your heartbeats normal. When your heartbeats remain normal, the pacing wires will be taken out. Ask for more information about the use of a pacemaker.


A machine is used to treat samples of your blood with ultraviolet (UV) light. This is done to remove cells that may cause your body to reject the donor heart. The treated blood will be returned to your body through an IV.

Cardiac rehabilitation:

Cardiac rehabilitation is a program that helps you learn how to live a heart-healthy lifestyle. You may also learn how to exercise safely to strengthen your muscles and heart. This will help you feel better and decrease your risk for more heart problems.

Deep breathing and coughing:

This will help decrease your risk for a lung infection after surgery.

  • Hold a pillow tightly against your incision when you cough, to help decrease pain. Take a deep breath and hold it for as long as you can. Deep breaths help open your airways. Let the air out and follow with a strong cough. Spit out any mucus you cough up. Repeat the steps 10 times every hour.
  • You may be given an incentive spirometer to help you take deep breaths. Put the plastic piece into your mouth and take a slow, deep breath. Let out your breath and cough. Repeat the steps 10 times every hour.


  • Eat heart-healthy foods: Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Ask if you should eat foods that are low in fat, cholesterol, or sodium (salt).
  • Drink liquids as directed: Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
  • Do not smoke: If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Smoking increases your risk for heart problems after a heart transplant. Ask for information if you need help quitting.

For support and more information:

  • American Heart Association
    7272 Greenville Avenue
    Dallas , TX 75231-4596
    Phone: 1- 800 - 242-8721
    Web Address:
  • National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
    Health Information Center
    P.O. Box 30105
    Bethesda , MD 20824-0105
    Phone: 1- 301 - 592-8573
    Web Address:

Contact your cardiologist or heart surgeon if:

  • One or both of your ankles swell.
  • You are dizzy and feel like you are going to faint.
  • You fall when you try to get up or walk.
  • You feel anxious and cannot think clearly.
  • You have a cough, sore throat, or a cold sore.
  • You have pain in your surgery site that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • Your stitches or staples are loose or come out.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You urinate less than usual or not at all.
  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • Your surgery site is swollen, red, or has pus coming from it.
  • Your lips or nail beds turn blue or white.
  • You have chest pain when you take a deep breath or cough. You cough up blood.
  • Call 911 or an ambulance if you have any signs of a heart attack:
    • Discomfort in the center of your chest that feels like squeezing, pressure, fullness, or pain, that lasts for more than a few minutes or keeps returning
    • Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or one or both of your arms
    • Feeling sick to your stomach
    • Having trouble breathing
    • A sudden cold sweat, particularly in combination with chest discomfort or trouble breathing
    • Feeling very lightheaded or dizzy, particularly in combination with chest discomfort or trouble breathing

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.