This article is from the Organ Transplant FAQ, by email@example.com (Michael Holloway) with numerous contributions by others.
1) The success of heart transplantation obviously varies according to risk
factors prior to transplantation. In general the success rate of the
surgery is close to 95% in most centers on the average. Traditional risk
factors include age over 60, patients transplanted who are on a ventilator,
patients with an elevated panel reactive antibody level (antibodies in the
blood to foreign antigens seen rarely), patients who have had a previous
heart transplant, and patients who have high pressures in the pulmonary
(lung) blood vessels. At this time, however, a standard transplant has a
95% or higher chance of being initially successful, and if you survive the
initial 30 days the chances are close to 90% that you will be alive at the
end of the first year.
2) Life expectancy folllowing heart transplant is somewhat harder to
predict because it depends upon a number of factors including age, patient
compliance, immunological match of donor to recipient, and the era in which
you were transplanted. Again average survival, obtained from the UNOS-ISHLT
data base (which by the way can be accessed via the ISHLT home page) is
approximately 60% at 5 years. In other words if 100 people have a heart
transplant, 60% of them will be alive at 5 years. If we just look at the
past 4 to 5 years, however, this number will be closer to 65 to 70%.
Obviously individual programs will have higher or lower rates of survival
depending upon not how good they are, but upon the types of patients they
are willing to accept in their individual programs. Keep in mind that the
average survival of a sick patient with congestive heart failure (again
depending upon how sick they are) is 50% survival at 2 years without a
heart transplant. By the way many centers have patients alive 8 to 10 years
3)Most transplant centers use a cold solution of iced salt water solution
to store a harvested heart in. This gives a comfort level of aproximately 3
to 4 hours of storage after a heart has been removed from a donor. On the
other hand excellent survival has been seen in many centers with hearts
that have been stored for up to 5 to 6 hours.
Bob Kormos, MD (transplant surgeon), University of Pittsburgh