Orthotopic heart transplantation is the most common type of procedure performed. In this surgery, the diseased heart is removed and replaced entirely with the new donor heart. The donor heart is sutured (stitched) to remnants of the top two chambers of the native heart that are left in place for that purpose.

After arriving in the operating room, you will receive general anesthesia and be put to sleep. You will have a breathing tube (endotracheal tube) placed in your throat. This tube is connected to a machine called a ventilator, which will breathe for you during and after the operation. You will also be placed on a heart-lung bypass machine that will handle the functions of your heart and lungs while the surgeon is working on both your old and new hearts.

The surgeon will make an incision through your breastbone, called the sternum. When the new heart arrives, the surgeon will remove your heart, leaving only portions of the right atrium. The aorta, pulmonary artery and right and left atria from the new heart will be connected to the remaining portions of your old heart.

After surgery, you will go to the cardiac surgery intensive care unit (ICU), where a doctor and nurses are always very close by if you need anything. Initially, you will be under the effects of anesthesia. You will have many IVs, special tubes and a breathing tube. Once you wake up and breathe on your own, the breathing tube will be removed.

A typical stay in the ICU is three to four days. You will then be transferred to the cardiac surgery floor, where our nurses and physical therapists will help you regain your strength, teach you how to care for yourself when you go home, and prepare you for discharge from the hospital. If all goes well, you can expect to spend three to four days on the cardiac surgery floor before your discharge.