Transplant surgeons at UCHealth have performed over 500 hundred successful heart transplants in adults and children since 1986. Our experience and volume are key factors in our strong outcomes.

About heart transplants

A heart transplant is sometimes the only option for someone with congestive heart failure who has not responded to medical treatment. The goal of this treatment option is for patients to live longer with a better quality of life.

Why choose UCHealth for your heart transplant?

You benefit from a team of highly skilled experts and an integrated approach that meets your medical, surgical, psychological, spiritual, nutritional, and financial needs. Our program is based at University of Colorado Hospital in metro Denver, where we devote an entire floor to transplant patients.

  • Our heart transplant program is recognized as an Optum® Center of Excellence, a distinction that means we meet or exceed nationally recognized standards of care.
  • Our one-year survival rate after transplantation averages over 90 percent; the three-year rate is over 85 percent.
  • A patient’s average hospital stay (from date of transplant to discharge) for a heart transplant is 14 days.
  • We’re continually conducting research to minimize rejection and improve outcomes.
  • We are Medicare-approved, and we are considered a Center of Excellence by many insurance carriers.
Your evaluation for transplant

Before you receive a heart transplant, you’ll have a series of tests to determine your current health. After these tests are performed, various members of the transplant medical team will conduct a thorough evaluation.

A cardiologist will present your case to the Patient Selection Committee for Heart Transplantation. The committee, which meets weekly, is made up of transplant program cardiologists, surgeons, advance practice providers, nurse coordinators, social workers, nutritionists, dietitians, financial coordinators, and pharmacists. They determine whether heart transplant surgery is indicated and safe for you. They also will discuss an optimal plan of care for you after transplant.

Your transplant coordinator will inform you of the committee’s decision and plan.

Once you are accepted for transplant, your information is entered on the active heart transplant waiting list, and the search for a new heart for you begins.

Heart transplant wait list

University of Colorado Hospital’s Transplant Program follows the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) system for prioritizing transplant candidates. UNOS is a nationwide network supervised by the federal government to help ensure equitable distribution of healthy organs as soon as they become available. All transplant centers in the United States belong to UNOS.

For this system to work, it relies on organ procurement organizations, called Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs). OPOs match and distribute donated organs, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The OPO in our region is Donor Alliance. Donor Alliance is responsible for the coordination, retrieval, and distribution of organs in Colorado and Wyoming.

Matching organs to patients

The process of matching donor organs to patients awaiting transplant is based on many criteria to make sure patients are stable and prepared, including:

  • Medical urgency of the transplant candidate
  • Time spent on the waiting list
  • Biologic compatibility (organ size, blood type, etc.)
  • The candidate’s ability to be transplanted immediately

If all candidates are of similar degrees of illness, the donor organ is offered to the person with the longest waiting time.

Donated organs are distributed locally first. If no suitable match exists in the local area, the organ is offered regionally (e.g., Colorado and Wyoming), and then nationally.

Patients typically wait some time for a healthy, viable donor heart to become available. During the waiting period, you will be monitored by your cardiologist. Your cardiologist will keep the transplant surgeon and coordinator informed about changes in your condition.

If you live far away from University of Colorado Hospital, some of your care may be managed by your primary care doctor. However, it’s important that you see a transplant center cardiologist on a monthly basis.

 

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