Updates

BJC and Saint Luke’s Officially Combine as BJC Health System

Heart transplant: Why choose us?

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.
A New Heart for Courtney

At 31, Courtney was diagnosed with advanced heart failure. A heart transplant surgery performed at BJH saved her life.

Read Courtney’s Story
Heart transplant services

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:

Left ventricular assist devices (LVADS)

If your heart can no longer effectively pump on its own, we surgically connect an artificial pump to your heart called an LVAD.

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) therapy

A machine takes over the work of your heart for one to two weeks while awaiting your heart transplant surgery or LVAD placement.

Heart transplant

Your diseased heart is removed and replaced with a healthy heart from a deceased donor.

Heart transplant alternatives

We may discuss several alternative heart surgeries with you, including heart valve repair or heart bypass surgery.

Pediatric heart transplant

The expert pediatric cardiologists at St. Louis Children’s Hospital offer hope for families of children who need a heart transplant.

Heart failure research and clinical trials

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)

What is the recovery process following heart transplant surgery?

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.

What does follow-up care include?

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.

What medication do I need to take?

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

  • Fatigue/weakness

  • Low-grade fever

  • Nausea

  • Not feeling "quite right" or flu-type aches and pains

  • Shortness of breath

  • Sudden weight gain

  • Swelling of hands or feet

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