Heart transplant program in San Antonio

The Methodist Heart Institute’s Heart Failure Center provides medical and surgical interventions for hearts that are failing.

With the largest heart transplant program in Central and South Texas, our team has performed more than 500 transplants and implanted over 200 assist devices since the start of the program in 1986.

For more information about our heart transplant services, please call (210) 575-8485.

A heart transplant can help patients with heart failure, a condition that means the heart no longer pumps enough to meet the demands of the body. The goal of the heart transplant program is to exhaust all medical therapies before resorting to a heart transplant, which is reserved as a final life-saving option.

Transplant services are only considered for patients with severe heart failure who meet heart transplant criteria and have healthy organs otherwise.

Heart transplant candidacy

If your doctor feels you may be a candidate for heart transplant evaluation, you will have to undergo multiple diagnostic tests and medical evaluations. You will also participate in various consultations with members of our heart transplant interdisciplinary team, including our surgeons, dietitian, social worker, psychiatrist, financial advisor and other consulting physicians as necessary.

Private insurance, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, provides coverage for heart transplants. Our financial coordinators verify transplant benefits from your provider, assist with information and planning, help you understand what your insurance will and will not cover and estimate transplant and medication costs.

If you are a physician and think your patient is a candidate for heart transplant surgery, please fill out our online patient referral form.

Read about a Methodist Healthcare patient's heart transplant journey

Heart transplant list

The heart transplant team meets regularly to discuss a candidate’s needs and the likelihood of a successful transplantation. If you are an ideal candidate for the procedure, your name is placed on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) waiting list for a donor heart. Your place on the list is determined by the severity of your illness and how long you have been waiting. You may move up or down the list as your condition declines or improves.

Heart transplant surgery

As the donor heart is being transported to the hospital, the patient will be prepared for surgery. The transplant operation lasts four to six hours. During the procedure, the patient is placed on a heart-lung bypass machine, keeping the blood circulating and oxygenated. The diseased heart is removed, and the donor heart is reconnected to major blood vessels and surrounding tissues.

After surgery, the patient is taken to the Surgical Intensive Care Unit and then transferred to a regular room in the hospital’s transplant unit. Most transplant patients spend approximately 10 days in the hospital following an operation.

While hospitalized, the transplant program team provides post-transplant education and support services. The patient is informed about diet, exercise, cardiac rehabilitation and medications.

Heart transplant recovery

After discharge, activity will be limited for six to eight weeks. The patient must keep a daily record of blood pressure, pulse, temperature, dosages and times medication is taken. Patients are watched closely for signs of rejection of the transplanted heart. Rejection may occur because your body perceives the heart as foreign, and your immune system attacks the heart.

Because post-transplant medications are designed to suppress the immune system to reduce the risk of rejection, they also increase the risk of infection. Immediately following discharge, it is imperative that patients avoid large crowds or come in contact with unhealthy individuals.

Your transplant team will do their best to reduce your chance of having complications and to treat any problems or difficulties right away. Following instructions carefully, and keeping your transplant team informed of any problems you have or are concerned about, will help you return to a normal, active life.

Heart transplant recipients' tribute

View the incredible story of a group of Methodist Heart Institute Transplant Recipients who decided to honor their donors and donor families by running the San Antonio Rock n' Roll Half Marathon.