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Heart Transplant

Heart Transplant Surgery

MUSC Health's Heart Transplant team in Charleston, SC provides the only adult and pediatric cardiac transplantation program in South Carolina. To contact the MUSC Health Heart Transplant Program, please call 843-792-9259.

About Our Transplant Program 

Since it began in 1987, the MUSC Health Heart Transplant Program has performed more than 400 heart transplants in adults and children.

MUSC Health has a dedicated children's hospital providing specialized care for pediatric transplant recipients.

Our heart transplant success outcomes are comparable to the national average. What's more, MUSC Health's average wait time for heart transplant surgery is among the shortest in the nation.

Our extensive heart transplant experience also contributes to:

For South Carolinians, whose deaths from heart disease are among the highest in the nation, a heart transplant is one of many options available at MUSC Health for successfully treating end-stage heart failure.

Contact the MUSC Health Transplant Center to schedule appointments or ask questions about MUSC Health's heart transplantations.


Is Heart Transplant Surgery Right for You?

In order to be a good candidate for a heart transplant, patients must have end-state heart disease with significant risk of mortality within one year, including:

  • Severely reduced left ventricular ejection fraction
  • Severely reduced functional capacity
  • Poor progress based on cardiopulmonary stress test
  • A heart failure survival score indicating high risk
  • Inoperable benign primary cardiac tumors
  • Inoperable coronary artery disease with intractable angina
  • Refractory ventricular arrhythmias

Patients having the following conditions are not good candidates for a heart transplant:

  • Fixed pulmonary hypertension
  • Severe, chronic disabling diseases
  • Severe, irreversible, chronic impairment of other vital organs, such as kidneys, intestines, liver, lungs, or central nervous system
  • Recent or uncontrolled malignancy
  • Symptomatic, severe peripheral, visceral, carotid, or cerebrovascular disease that cannot be corrected
  • Malignant hypertension
  • Inability to discontinue recreational drug, tobacco or alcohol use
  • Active mental illness that interferes with medical treatment compliance
  • Psychosocial instability, lack of social or family support, ongoing noncompliance with medical treatment
  • 70 years old or older
  • Pulmonary infarction within the past six weeks
  • Very brittle diabetes or diabetes with end organ damage
  • Major chronic disabling diseases, such as arthritis, stroke, neurological disease, severe inflammatory or collagen vascular disease
  • Recent or uncontrolled peptic ulcer disease
  • Active, but treatable infection (temporary)
  • Morbid obesity
  • HIV seroconversion

UNOS Waiting List for Heart Transplant 

The MUSC Health Transplant Center's wait times for an available heart are among the shortest in the nation. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) has a pre-determined process for allocating hearts from deceased donors to eligible transplant candidates. MUSC Health physicians do not decide who is next to receive a heart from the transplant waiting list.

How to Prepare for Your Heart Transplant 

Patients referred to MUSC Health for a heart transplant will be admitted to the hospital for a few days to have certain tests or be scheduled as an outpatient in the clinic for tests.  These tests usually take three days to complete and are designed to determine:

  • If a new heart is needed
  • If any other illness, infection, or problem is present that could make transplant surgery too risky
  • If the patient is physically and emotionally strong enough to undergo a transplant.

Tests include:

  • Blood tests to check kidneys, liver, and immune system function
  • X-rays
  • Cardiac catheterization to check heart pressure
  • MUGA scan to show the function of the left and right sides of the heart
  • Echocardiogram – an ultrasound of the heart
  • EKG to check heart rhythm
  • Lung function test to determine how well the lungs are working
  • Exercise stress treadmill test
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Bone density test to check for osteoporosis
  • 24-hour urine collection to determine kidney function
  • Other scans, such as MRI or CT scan
  • Women will have a gynecological exam, pap smear, and possibly a mammogram.

Patients are also evaluated by other specialists to determine if a transplant is the right treatment.  Those who smoke or drink alcohol must quit at least three months before an evaluation.

What to Expect at MUSC Health 

When the time comes for the heart transplant, patients can expect:

  • A four- to six-hour operation, not including pre-operative preparation or post-operative recovery
  • A chest scar
  • Eating and walking within a few days
  • Median hospital stay of 12 days – our length of stay is among the shortest, designed to reduce the risk of infection
  • ­­Six to eight weeks in local accommodations with a caregiver

Our goal at MUSC Health Transplant Center is to provide the patient and family with key information about the pre-transplant evaluation and listing process, transplant surgery, and post-transplant care so the patient can make an informed decision about transplant and successfully participate in their post-transplant care.

The information will be provided before wait list placement and again before transplant surgery.  Patients are asked to review and sign a Patient Acknowledgement Form, indicating they have reviewed and understand all of the key information.

To contact the MUSC Health Heart Transplant Program, please call 843-792-9259.


Heart Transplant Videos