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Heart Transplant

Heart Transplant at Allegheny Health Network

For nearly three decades, the medical staff of Allegheny Health Network Heart Transplant Institute at Allegheny General Hospital have been innovators in the their field. Our program has the best one- and three-year patient survival rates in the western Pennsylvania region and ranks among the top 25 programs in the country, according to the latest report by the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR), the official national database of organ transplantation statistics. A multidisciplinary, team-based approach to patient care, personalized medication strategies and the use of innovative technology are integral reasons for our superior results.

The physicians of the Transplant Institute are dedicated to providing you with the highest quality heart failure care possible. And care that is safe, compassionate and supportive at every turn. We know that having end-stage heart disease is stressful and overwhelming, so our goal is to make the process as simplified and encouraging as possible for you and your family.  

Program at a glance

  • Established in 1987
  • Ranked among the top 10 heart transplant centers nationally and number one in the state, according to Comparion Medical Analytics (CMA) 2015 National Quality Rating Database
  • The best one- and three-year transplant survival rates in the region, according to The Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR)
  • Approved by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), Medicare and Medicaid
  • National leader in the use of left ventricular assist devices (LVADs), both as a bridge to transplantation and permanently as destination therapy
  • Pioneers with implanting cardioverter defibrillators, cardiac resynchronization therapy devices, and mechanical circulatory support devices
  • Leaders in the treating the most complex patient cases, including multi-organ transplants
  • Extensive research and clinical trials to continually improve treatment options and antirejection medications
  • Multidisciplinary team approach: physicians, transplant nurse coordinators, dieticians, social workers, pharmacists and other caregivers dedicated to caring for transplant candidates and recipients
  • Personalized treatment plans for each heart failure patient and high-quality, compassionate, patient-focused care

Meet the Team

Thoracic Transplant Program Medical Director
Raymond Benza, MD

Thoracic Transplant Program Surgical Director
Stephen Bailey, MD

Director for Cardiovascular Services for Allegheny Health Network
Srinivas Murali, MD

Transplant Surgeons
George Magovern, Jr., MD
Walter McGregor, MD
Robert Moraca, MD
Mathew Van Deusen, MD

Transplant Physicians
Richa Agarwal, MD
Manreet Kanwar, MD
Amresh Raina, MD

Pre-transplant

  1. How do I obtain a referral to the Transplant Institute?
    Your primary care physician or cardiologist will contact the Transplant Institute with your referral. You should also call us at 412-359-6739 to provide authorization for us to obtain your medical records.
  2. Does the Transplant Institute accept my insurance or Medicare for a heart transplant?
    We are a Medicare-approved hospital and accept many different insurance plans. Our financial coordinators will confirm your insurance coverage before or during your initial evaluation.
  3. What happens at the initial visit?
    Depending on your medical condition, you will undergo either an inpatient or outpatient heart transplant evaluation at Allegheny General Hospital. Members of our transplant team – transplant surgeons, cardiologists and coordinators, psychiatrists, social workers, dietitians and cardiac rehabilitation specialists – assess your medical history, current condition, physical abilities and test results.
  4. When am I placed on the donor waiting list?
    After your screening and testing, your case is presented to our multidisciplinary transplant team for consideration for transplant. Our coordinator will notify you of the team’s recommendation for your best course of treatment. If you are a candidate for a transplant, you will be placed on the heart transplant waiting list until a donor heart is found.
  5. What happens while I’m waiting for a donor heart to become available?
    We understand the waiting process is a very stressful time for you and your family. Our physicians will closely monitor your clinical health while our support staff assists you with your psychological health. In some cases, a donor heart may not become available before your heart function has deteriorated. In order to support you heart during this critical time your doctor may need to implant a mechanical circulatory device in your heart. This technology assists with the pumping process and allows your heart to rest. It helps to sustain your health until a donor heart is obtained.
  6. How will I know when a donor heart becomes available?
    No matter what time of day or night a donor heart becomes available for you our coordinator will notify you immediately. It is imperative that you are available by cell phone during this time while you are on the waiting list.

Preparing for Transplant

  1. What do I need to do before I go to the hospital for the transplant?
    Our transplant coordinator will inform you of any specific testing that needs completed prior to surgery, and our financial coordinators will work with you and your insurance company to ensure that testing, as well as the transplant, is properly approved and pre-certified.
  2. What should I pack and not pack?
    You will be in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for several days, so there is no need to pack anything for when you initially arrive at the hospital for your transplant. Your family can bring in what you need as your health improves. Please leave any of your valuables at home.
  3. How do I get to the Transplant Institute?
    Allegheny General Hospital
  4. Where should I park?
    Allegheny General Hospital Parking Structure
  5. Where should I go to be admitted into the hospital?
    Our transplant coordinator will inform you about Allegheny General Hospital’s admissions procedures when she calls to tell you that a donor heart is available. She will then direct you to the appropriate location after you arrive at the hospital.
  6. What kind of hospital room will I have?
    As a transplant patient, you will have a private room.
  7. Will I have a television and telephone in my room?
    All of our patients’ rooms are equipped with televisions and telephones.
  8. What hotels are near the Transplant Institute for my family and friends?
    We have relationships with several hotels in the area that offer discounted rates and shuttle services to Allegheny General Hospital. Our transplant coordinator can supply you with an updated list of these hotels.
  9. Do you provide special services for people with disabilities?
    Yes, we provide a number of special services for hospitalized patients with disabilities. During the admission procedure, please let our transplant coordinator know of any special needs that you have to make you as comfortable as possible while you are here.

The Transplant

  1. What happens during the the transplant process?
    When an organ becomes available, our transplant coordinator will call you and direct you to the appropriate location in the hospital. We will perform blood work and testing on you and connect to an IV and monitoring lines. When the appropriate time comes, you will be taken to the Operating Room for the transplant.
  2. How long does the surgery last?
    In most cases, if there are no complications, a heart transplant operation takes about five hours or more to complete.
  3. What happens to me after surgery?
    Usually, patients go directly to the Surgical Intensive Care Unit for several days until the physicians feel you are stable enough to transfer to the Step-down Unit. You will remain on the Step-down Unit, in a private room, until you are discharged from the hospital. You will undergo constant monitoring and testing, including regular heart biopsies to determine if your new heart is being accepted by your body.
  4. How long will I stay in the hospital?
    Your length of stay in the hospital is determined by your recovery. Typically, transplant patients remain in the hospital for 10 to 14 days.
  5. What are my days like while I’m in the hospital?
    During your recovery, you will receive various instructions and treatments from physicians, nurses, transplant coordinators, dieticians and social workers. Cardiac rehabilitation specialists will work with you on a daily basis. If necessary, a physical therapist will evaluate you to determine whether you will need additional rehabilitation after discharge.

Post-transplant

  1. What should I expect from my health when I get home?
    Following discharge from the hospital, you will require regular hospital checkups and routine blood work to detect rejection or other complications. We will provide you with various medications to decrease the risk of rejection and minimize your side effects. Our transplant team will coordinate your follow-up care with you, your primary care physician and your cardiologist.
  2. What special modifications will I have?
    Our transplant coordinator will work closely with you and your family to teach you about lifestyle modifications, such as exercise, diet, stress management and prescription management. Our team will closely monitor your medical status during your Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, which traditionally begins 12 weeks after discharge.
  3. Do I have to do any special routine at home?
    Your physicians, transplant coordinator and discharge nurse will carefully explain your home care instructions, including medication regimen, prior to your discharge from the hospital.
  4. What concerns should I be aware of?
    Infection and rejection are the primary concerns for transplant patients. Your medication regimen – which you will have to take for the lifetime of your transplant – will include medications to prevent rejection. Preventing infection is also of the utmost importance for you, so we recommend exceptional hand washing and close attention to remaining away from others who are sick, even with a common cold.
  5. When can I return to work?
    You will be allowed to return to work when your transplant physicians determine you are able.