Problems With Heart Transplants

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Problems With Heart Transplants

A heart transplant is necessary if you have a diseased heart, if medications have failed, or if other surgeries have failed to fix the defect in your heart. A donor heart is used in the replacement of your heart. While the success of survival has greatly improved since the first heart transplant took place, there are some risks associated with a transplant.

  1. Donor Rejection

    • According to the Mayo Clinic, the biggest risk is the rejection of the new heart. The body naturally tries to ward off foreign substances that the body deems as a threat. The immune system will attack your heart, even though the new heart is meant to save you.

    Signs of Rejection

    • When you are given a donor heart, you are placed on immunosuppressants to slow down the aggression of your immune system. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, despite taking the medication, nearly 25 percent of heart transplant patients will develop signs of rejection within the first year. Initial signs of donor rejection include fever, fatigue, decreased urination, weight gain and shortness of breath.

    Arteries

    • After you have received a heart transplant, there is a slight possibility of developing a condition known as cardiac allograft vasculopathy. This condition causes the arteries of your heart to thicken and harden. As a result, blood circulation through your heart can become labored. CAV can lead to heart failure, heart attack, arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death.

    Cancer

    • According to the Mayo Clinic, if you are taking immunosuppressants after having received a heart transplant, you are at a higher risk for developing cancer. Such cancers can include skin cancer, the development of tumors on your lips and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

    Other Issues

    • After you receive a heart transplant, you will need to take immunosuppressants for the rest of your life. These medications can result in kidney damage. Immunosuppressants can also make you prone to infections. Your immune system becomes weak, and your body is not able to fight infections. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is common for many heart transplant recipients to be admitted to a hospital within the first year of their transplant, due to infections.

    Survival

    • Survival rates after having a heart transplant are relatively high. The Mayo Clinic states that the "survival rate is 90 percent after one year and 72 percent after five years." However, keep in mind that a heart transplant may not always be successful. As a result, you may require an adjustment in your medications. In severe cases, such as rejection or the development of heart disease, a new transplant may be necessary.

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  • Photo Credit D Dinneen: wikimedia.org

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