Transplanting a New Heart: Heart Transplant Surgery

The body is made up of billions of specialized cells arranged in groups to perform various functions. These cells can only survive in an environment where adequate blood flow brings them oxygen for metabolism and removes waste products in the form of carbon dioxide. The heart is the pump that moves blood throughout the body. It takes unoxygenated blood from the head and rest of the body, moves it to the lungs to be oxygenated, and then pumps this oxygenated blood into the rest of the body through the powerful left ventricle. When the heart fails, the rest of the body has to function with less and less oxygenated blood. Without adequate blood flow, eventually the heart and body will give out.

When heart failure can no longer be managed through medications or electrical devices, a new heart is needed. A heart transplant surgery is the process of replacing a diseased heart with a healthy donor heart. The donor heart comes from someone who has been deemed brain dead. Once the donor's heart has been removed it is placed in a special ice solution to keep it cool as it is brought back to the transplant center. The diseased heart is removed, the new heart is reconnected to the major blood vessels, and blood flows through the new heart into the body.