Heart Transplant

Providing Integrated Care for Complex Heart Transplant Patients

Heart transplant is one of a number of options for severe heart disease. It's not for everyone, and should not be considered unless all other viable treatment options have been unsuccessful. At the University of Michigan Adult Heart Transplant Program, our closely integrated team of cardiac transplant surgeons and transplant cardiologists are able to treat and implant donor hearts in the sickest of patients because of our high volume, vast experience and active research program.

Since 1984, we have performed more than 900 heart transplants. We have also implanted more than 800 ventricular assist devices (VADs), most as a way to “bridge” patients to transplant. In addition, we can provide the multidisciplinary care required for complex transplant patients, encompassing specialists in advanced circulatory support, cardiac critical care, nutrition and social work. Our physicians also offer advanced experience treating patients with congenital heart disease, inherited cardiomyopathies (such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) and transplant infectious disease.

Expanding Our Heart Transplant Program

The University of Michigan Health Adult Heart Transplant Program is working to increase the number of heart transplants performed, with several initiatives underway. We have:

  • Initiated a program that allows selected patients to accept donors with active hepatitis C infection, followed by postoperative treatment to ensure the virus is eradicated.
  • Acquired the recently FDA-approved Transmedics Organ Care system, which preserves donor hearts for longer periods of time, allowing us to accept donor hearts that before were not suitable because of distance limitations.
  • Adopted a strategy that allows hearts to be transplanted from a donor who has suffered an irreversible brain injury, but does not meet formal brain death criteria.

Reasons for Heart Transplant

There are a variety of reasons a patient may require a heart transplant, including:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease)
  • Hypertensive heart disease
  • Congenital heart defect

Delaying Transplant in Heart Disease Patients

Our center offers many unique treatment options for patients with heart disease that can delay the need for a heart transplant and/or prolong life while waiting for a donor heart:

  • Oral heart failure medications
  • Intravenous inotropes: Medical therapy to make the heart beat strongly
  • Ventricular assist device (VAD): A blood pump, implanted inside the body and connected to a tube that runs outside of the body and connects to a power source, which assists the heart with pumping blood to the body. The device is portable and can be operated on batteries, so patients can live at home. The University of Michigan was the first hospital in the state to implant heart-assist devices for patients awaiting transplant and is one of the largest programs to do so in the world. The device can also be used as permanent therapy for someone not eligible for a heart transplant. U-M surgeons and cardiologists continue to lead many of the clinical trials that have expanded the types of ventricular assist devices available and the clinical characteristics of patients who can receive them. For more detailed information on ventricular assist devices, visit the VADs and LVADs page on the Frankel Cardiovascular Center website.

Offering Options for Combination Transplant Patients

To be considered for a heart transplant, a person's heart must be unresponsive to other forms of treatment and all other vital organs must be in excellent health. Many centers will turn down a patient whose kidneys aren’t working optimally or who has liver disease. Our center, however, offers multiple transplant listings, and can perform combination heart/kidney transplants or heart/liver transplants.

Transplant Research Studies

Research is an important component of the University of Michigan Transplant Center, where we are committed to cutting-edge studies that will benefit today's patient and patients of the future. A world leader in the research and development of mechanical heart pumps, also known as mechanical circulatory support and ventricular assist devices, we are now involved in a large NIH study as the principal investigator to determine the benefits of introducing mechanical pumps as a treatment option earlier in the heart disease process. Our patients have access to the newest heart pumps before they are available in other centers across the U.S. because we’re developing them.

Patient Resources

Get Evaluated

To make an appointment to evaluate your need within our Transplant Center, call a patient care representative at 1-800-333-9013.