Duke's heart transplant program is one of the nation’s largest, with survival rates for patients with end-stage heart disease and heart failure consistently ranking among the nation’s best. Our program has been named one of the highest performing heart transplant centers in the country by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
North Carolina’s leading heart transplant center
As one of the nation’s leading heart transplant programs -- and one of the largest on the East Coast -- our surgeons perform more heart transplants each year than most other centers in the United States. We recently reached a significant milestone: performing our 1,000th transplant. Our experienced surgeons use the latest transplant medications and techniques to deliver excellent outcomes for adults and children with poor heart function resulting from congenital heart disease, end-stage heart failure or severe heart disease. If transplant is not an option for you, our ventricular assist device (VAD) program is one of the largest in the nation, and offers a full range of therapies to give you the best quality of life possible.
Choose Duke for your heart transplant because we offer:
- Top ventricular assist device (VAD) center. Our doctors are among the nation’s leaders in the development, testing and implantation of VADs, which serve as a bridge-to-transplant or as permanent therapy for end-stage heart disease and heart failure.
- Experience based on volume. Our transplant surgeons have performed twice as many heart transplants as any other center in North Carolina. In 2014 we reached 1,000 transplants – a milestone only achieved by a handful of transplant centers across the country. We are the first center to achieve this transplant milestone in our five-state UNOS region.
Comprehensive care before and after transplant. We educate you and your family about your emotional and physical needs before and after transplant. Our care guides outline what you can expect throughout the process, including how to prepare for a transplant and how to care for your body after a transplant.
- Extended selection criteria. Our innovative approaches to recipient and donor selection mean we may be able to help you -- even if you don’t meet the standard guidelines for transplant. We often achieve excellent outcomes for patients with heart disease, heart failure and poor heart function, including many aged 70 and older.
- Mending little hearts. Our pediatric heart transplant program and pediatric heart failure program are the largest in North Carolina. We also run the only pediatric cardiac intensive care unit in North Carolina. Together, these programs ensure your child receives coordinated care, family support and long-term follow up.
- A team of caring coordinators. Our dedicated team of transplant coordinators include advanced care nurses who help you navigate the transplant process and address your concerns. Your transplant coordinator will answer your questions about the initial evaluation and surgical procedure to financial concerns, emotional needs and dietary requirements.
- Skilled in multi-organ transplantation. Our surgeons are experienced in transplanting hearts in combination with other organs, such as lungs, livers and kidneys.
- Leaders in transplantation research. Our doctors are leaders in transplantation research, which gives you access to new therapies and best practices in heart transplantation through our programs and clinical trials.
Before your heart transplant
Determines whether transplantation is the best therapy for you. The process may take several days, depending on the severity of your heart disease, your heart function and what tests or screenings you’ll need. A transplant coordinator will help you plan your visit to Duke. Testing may include:
- Blood and tissue tests. Check blood type and compatibility, assess kidney, liver and immune system function, and screen for viruses or infections that could affect your outcome.
- Left heart catheterization. Provides information about the arteries supplying blood to the heart.
- Right heart catheterization. Provides information about overall heart function and lung function.
- Ventilation/perfusion scan (V/Q Scan). Provides information about the blood supply to the lungs.
- Echocardiogram. Uses ultrasound to bounce sound waves off your heart to evaluate heart function and the condition of your heart valves.
- Carotid ultrasound. Provides information about blood flow to the head and brain.
- 24-hour holter monitor. Provides a 24-hour record of the heart’s electrical activity.
If you are considered a heart transplant candidate, you will be listed in the national database maintained and administered by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). Once listed, our average wait time for heart transplant is less than three months. You will be notified when an organ is available and will need to arrive at Duke University Hospital within four hours. If you need to relocate to the Durham area, a transplant coordinator can assist you in gathering the resources and support you need.
All heart transplant candidates will participate in transplant education classes led by our transplant coordinators. We'll teach you and your caregivers about the transplant process, the medications you will need to take, and the recovery process.
We involve your designated caregivers -- family members or friends -- from the time of your first evaluation through recovery. They attend your appointments at Duke University Hospital, and we educate them about their important role in caring for you after surgery. They are our partners in restoring your health as quickly as possible.
After your heart transplant
Although organ rejection may follow transplants, our innovative strategies to prevent organ rejection and injury are a documented success. We provide you and your caregivers the resources and support you need to live a healthy life after transplantation. Our transplant coordinators are always available to answer your questions and address your concerns.
We offer support groups to all our transplant patients. These sessions, held at Duke University Hospital and led by social workers, give you and your loved ones a chance to meet with others for emotional support, to ask questions and share information about issues related to the transplant experience.