A heart transplant is surgery in which your diseased heart is replaced with a healthy donor heart. Your doctor did the surgery through a cut (incision) in your chest.
You will feel tired and sore for several weeks after surgery. You may have some brief, sharp pains on either side of your chest. Your chest, shoulders, and upper back may ache. The incision in your chest may be sore or swollen. These symptoms usually get better after 4 to 6 weeks.
You will probably be able to do many of your usual activities after about 3 months. But for 3 to 4 months, you will not be able to lift heavy objects or do activities that strain your chest or upper arm muscles. At first you may notice that you get tired easily and need to rest often. It may take several months to get your energy back.
Having an organ transplant can bring up many emotions. You may feel grateful and happy. But you also may feel guilty or depressed. Seek out family, friends, and counsellors for support. If you think you are depressed, ask your doctor for help. Treatment can help you feel better.
After a heart transplant, you must follow a strict lifestyle involving daily medicines and regular medical care. This includes regular sampling (biopsies) of the transplanted heart tissue to check for rejection.
You probably started a cardiac rehabilitation (rehab) program in the hospital. You will continue with this rehab program after you go home to help you recover and prevent problems with your heart.
This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
When should you call for help?
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- You passed out (lost consciousness).
- You have severe trouble breathing.
- You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.
- You have severe pain in your chest.
- You have symptoms of a stroke. These may include:
- Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
- Sudden vision changes.
- Sudden trouble speaking.
- Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
- Sudden problems with walking or balance.
- A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.
- You have symptoms of a heart attack. These may include:
After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.
- Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
- Shortness of breath.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly or in one or both shoulders or arms.
- Light-headedness or sudden weakness.
- A fast or irregular heartbeat.
Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
- You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
- You are bleeding a lot from the incision.
- You have signs of infection, such as:
- Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
- Red streaks leading from the incision.
- Pus draining from the incision.
- A fever.
- You have signs of a blood clot, such as:
- Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
- Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.
- Your heartbeat feels very fast, skips beats, or flutters.
- You have symptoms of heart failure, such as:
- Swelling in your legs, ankles, or feet.
- Sudden weight gain, such as more than 1 to 1.3 kilograms (2 to 3 pounds) in a day or 2.5 kilograms (5 pounds) in a week. (Your doctor may suggest a different range of weight gain.)
- You are sick to your stomach or cannot keep fluids down.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:
- You do not get better as expected.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
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