Washington University physicians deliver national leading transplant care at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and St. Louis Children's Hospital. Our heart specialists are experts in diagnosing and treating heart disease, specifically advanced heart failure. Our heart surgeons work closely with cardiologists and other specialists at our transplant center to provide advanced, personalized care.
When you to come to us for a heart transplant, you can expect:
- Collaboration: Our cardiac surgeons work closely with our cardiologists to treat advanced heart failure. We develop an individualized treatment plan to meet your needs, always making sure you understand your treatment options.
- High level of expertise: We have been performing heart transplants for over 30 years, with 30 to 40 transplants performed annually. Our specialists have the skills and experience to provide excellent treatment and care.
- Multiple treatment options: We offer artificial heart devices, including left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) and total artificial hearts. We use these support devices as a temporary measure before a transplant or as a treatment for patients who are not eligible for a transplant.
- Comprehensive care: We provide expert care during every step of the heart transplant process. We’re always here to answer your questions, consult with your primary care physician or offer you the additional support you need.
- Fully equipped facilities: Patients with life-threatening heart conditions such as cardiogenic shock receive 24/7 care in our cardiology and cardiac surgery intensive care units. We use advanced treatments — like extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) therapy — to help provide blood and oxygen to your body.
- Patient and family support: You and your loved ones can access education, support groups, one-on-one psychological counseling and our Transplant Mentor Program. In this program, someone who has already had a transplant provides you with information, guidance and emotional support.
When other treatments for advanced heart failure haven’t worked, we offer a wide range of options, including artificial heart devices and heart transplant. Our specialists work with you to determine the best treatment plan to meet your needs.
We offer several heart transplant options:
If your heart can no longer effectively pump on its own, we surgically connect an artificial pump to your heart called an LVAD.
A machine takes over the work of your heart for one to two weeks while awaiting your heart transplant surgery or LVAD placement.
Your diseased heart is removed and replaced with a healthy heart from a deceased donor.
We may discuss several alternative heart surgeries with you, including heart valve repair or heart bypass surgery.
The expert pediatric cardiologists at St. Louis Children’s Hospital offer hope for families of children who need a heart transplant.
Thanks to our affiliation with Washington University School of Medicine, you get access to leading-edge heart failure research and clinical trials.
Available trials may study:
Medications for acute and chronic heart failure
The role of exercise in patients with heart failure
Remote monitoring of patient health status
Implantable devices, including defibrillators, biventricular pacemakers and artificial heart devices
Left ventricular assist devices (LVADs)
You stay in the hospital for two to three weeks following your heart transplant surgery. Our heart transplant team follows you closely as you recover from surgery. You are seen frequently in our outpatient clinic in the first few weeks after transplant.
If you live outside the St. Louis area, you can arrange temporary lodging near the hospital for the first few weeks of observation.
Follow-up care after a transplant is individualized, but patients often experience the following:
1.The first four weeks: You have clinic visits once a week for the first four weeks after you leave the hospital.
2.Biopsies during the first month: We do biopsies every seven to 10 days for the first month to check for potential rejection.
3.The next two months: We see you every two weeks for the next two months for a biopsy and clinic visit.
4.The rest of the first year: We see you monthly for a clinic visit. You may have a biopsy or AlloMap testing to check for potential rejection.
5.Once per year afterward: We see you once per year for follow-up after the first year. We do not do regular biopsies, so you can avoid this more invasive procedure. Instead, our annual evaluation will consist of tests, including an echocardiogram and cardiac catheterization, to check for the presence of coronary artery disease (blocked arteries).
After several years, if you have no evidence of heart disease, you may be offered the option of medication or an exercise stress test (treadmill test) instead of a cardiac catheterization. We prefer to offer less-invasive options to make sure your heart is working well.
Organ transplantation requires life-long immunosuppressive medication. We help you understand your prescriptions and monitor you for side effects.
It is important to remember:
Anti-rejection medications suppress your immune system so your body doesn't reject the transplanted heart.
Because the medication suppresses your immune system, you are more prone to infection, especially during the first three to six months after transplant.
Our team helps you avoid and manage rejection by:
Discussing the signs and symptoms of rejection with you
Testing and routine clinic appointments
Treating rejection with additional medication to prevent complications
The risk of rejection decreases over time but can occur at any time. Follow your medication regimens and physician orders to prevent rejection. If you experience any unusual symptoms, call your transplant nurse coordinator immediately.
Symptoms of rejection may include:
Drop in blood pressure
Fast heartbeat or skipping some beats
Not feeling "quite right" or flu-type aches and pains
Shortness of breath
Sudden weight gain
Swelling of hands or feet