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Medical Miracles: Heart Transplants

Meet your guide...


Vanessa Bonjour, Class of 2015, got her inspiration for this project because heart disease runs in her family. Her uncle got quadruple bypass and both of her grandparents have pacemakers. The medical field interests her and learning about heart transplants was fascinating.

Human-to-Human Heart Transplants

Medical Miracle

What is a Heart Transplant?

A heart transplant is an operation where a damaged/failing heart is replaced with a healthy one. The doctor will remove the paitents heart by transecting the aorta, the main pulmonary artery, and the superior and inferior vena cavae, then dividing the left atrium. This leaves the back wall of the left atruim with the pulmonary vein openings in place. This whole process is just the beginning of what the surgeon is required to do during a heart transplant.

Why have a Heart Transplant?                                                                

Heart transplants are ususaly the last option when it comes to heart surgeries. If all other surgeries have failed to work, then heart transplants will be an option. Someone with coronary heart disease, weakening of a heart muscle(cardiomyapathy), valvular heart disease, or failure of previous heart transplants would be a considerable patient for a heart transplant.

History of Heart Transplants

In 1967, the first human-to-human transplant occurred. The patient survived for 18 days and this showed scientists and doctors a lot about the technique and the procedure. Before heart transplants, the surgeon could only do so much to save the patient and if their heart was too damaged, they would most likely die. With the discovery of heart transplants, patients could now receive a healthy heart and this could save their life. 


Significant Discovery

Before the idea of human-to-human transplantation, scientists were experimenting on medical procedures that would eventually turn into our transplant procedures today. Advances in suturing techniques in the late 19th century lead to surgeons practicing organ transplants. By the end of the 20th century, enough experimentation took place for surgeons to begin xenographic, allogenic and autograft transplants.


Alex Carrel, a french surgeon and Nobel laureate, experimented on sustaining the life of organs outside of animals bodies. He received a nobel prize in 1912 in the categories of medicine and psychology for his technique of suturing blood vessels. Then in the 1930s, he worked with Charles Lindbergh in inventing a mecanical heart that circulated blood through body. This would be a vital step to discovering human-to-human heart transplants.


This is just one of the many inventors, doctors and surgeons who helped discover heart transplants and help evolve them to where they are today.



Emerging Innovations

Doctors use innovative technology and therapies to treat people with heart failure.

Ventricular Assist Device

A ventricular assist device or VAD is a mechanical device that is used to support the heart's function in a weakened heart. Doctors may implant ventricular assist devices to treat some people with heart failure. It can also pump blood from one or both of the lower chambers of the heart(ventricles) to the rest of the body.

Total Artifical Heart

A total artifical heart or TAH is a device that replaces the two lower chambers(ventricles) of the heart. This device is used during the end-stage of heart failure, while a patient waits for a heart transplant. "End-stage" means the condition has become so severe that all treatments, beside heart transplants, has failed. 

VAD                                                                                                                  TAD


Social Impact

Medical Risks


-Reactions to medications                                                   

-Problems breathing                                                         





-Blood clots

-Damage to kidneys, liver, or other body organs from anti-rejection medications

-Heart attack


-Heart rhythm problems

-Wound infection

Medical Benifits

-Increased strength, energy and stamina

-Normal lifestyle and easier daily living

-Extending the life span

Emotional Impacts

-Risk of reactivation of preexisting mental problems

-Development of a new disorder(This can occur due to side effects of medications or a reaction of the illness process)

Economic Issues

-A financial officer will verify the insurance coverage and obtain authorization for your transplant and follow-up care

-Wait list exceeds available hearts

Ethical Questions

-When did the donor die?

-How did the donor die?

-Is it right to have another human's heart in my chest?

All of these are resonable questions. But one must move past these issues and think of the positives that would come

from the procedure.

-Better lifestyle

-Being healthy 

-Longer life

All of these outweigh the possible negatives that could occur.

Future Directions

New UCLA-led studies show that blood tests can soon predict potential rejection-related problems with the new organ. Today, blood tests are used with heart transplant research to test whether the blood types are a match. Soon, doctors will be able to predict whether the organ will fail or not. The AlloMap test, which uses blood samples to measure the changes in expression of about a dozen genes, can be used to assess the risk of rejection of the donor heart months before it could happen. The AlloMap measures expressions of about 11 genes from a patients blood sample, each of which seems to be associated with rejection of the organ. In the U.S., about 2,000 patients receive a life saving heart transplant each year. As of now, there are no similar tests to monitor potential risk of rejection but other research at UCLA shows that soon there will be more genomic testing for these fields.


This video shows a step-by-step process that the surgeon has to follow in order to perform a sucessful heart transplant.

What do you think?

Do heart problems run in your family?
I have a family member with heart disease: 0 votes (0%)
I have a family member who has received a pacemaker: 0 votes (0%)
I have a family member who has received a new heart: 0 votes (0%)
I have family members with any number of the above: 0 votes (0%)
I have no heart problems in family: 1 votes (100%)
Total Votes: 1

Heart Transplant Game

This game allows the player to first hand experience a heart transplant and is realatively accurate to the real thing. Please click the link below to play.

Library Information and Media Center - Monona Grove High School - Monona, Wisconsin

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