University of Minnesota Physicians Heart offers one of the longest running transplant programs in the world. For 33 years, transplant surgeons have been at the forefront of a generation of breakthroughs in advanced heart failure and heart transplantation.
As leaders in innovative research, we are committed to bringing together the science and art of medicine to provide the best possible care for patients and their families. Our program began in 1978, when our physicians performed the first heart transplant in Minnesota. Since then, we have performed more than 700 heart transplants. Our surgeons performed the state’s first heart/lung transplant in 1986.
Today we perform the most heart transplants in Minnesota—measured both by the total number and the annual number.
A hallmark of our program is excellent survival rates. Our one-year heart transplant survival rate of 95 percent exceeds the national average and is among the best in the world. The nation’s longest living heart transplant recipient was transplanted at the University of Minnesota and benefited from our innovative care for more than 25 years following transplant.
The heart transplant program was recognized by the U.S. Department of Human Services for some of the highest one-year survival rates in the country with a 2010 Medal of Honor. We were one of 17 programs nationwide to receive this honor, and the only program in Minnesota.
Our transplant program is one of the few to accept older, higher risk candidates. By carefully analyzing complex factors such as organ compatibility, we are able to offer a second chance at life to a group of patients who might not otherwise receive a transplant. Some patients who have been considered too high risk and not approved for transplant at other centers have received new hearts at the University of Minnesota Medical Fairview. Heart transplantation at University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview is seamlessly integrated with our mechanical circulatory support programs.
Who gets a heart transplant?
A candidate for a heart transplant must have end-stage heart disease. A transplant evaluation is performed to decide if heart transplant is the best treatment for you and to make sure that you do not have any other conditions that would interfere with the success of the transplant. The evaluation process is rigorous. It includes a series of physical and psychological exams. Blood tests are used to determine tissue type and to identify the level of antibodies in your immune system. Normally tests take four to five days.
If you have other organ dysfunction related to heart disease, you may qualify for a multi-organ transplant, such as heart and liver, heart and lung or heart and kidney. If approved for a transplant, your blood type, physical size and place of residency may play a role in determining how long you might wait on a national donor list for available organs. Donor populations vary by geographic region, which may also affect waiting time for an organ.
A pioneer program, heart failure to transplant
- Our 30-year-old program is one of longest-running heart transplant treatment centers in the world. Our physicians have performed more than 700 heart transplants since 1978
- Our surgeons performed the first heart transplant in Minnesota in 1978 and the state’s first heart/lung transplant in 1986
- We are a national leader in implanting ventricular assist devices (VADs), performing 500 procedures, more than 60 VADs each year
- 2010 Medal of Honor from U.S. Department of Human Services for some of the highest one-year post-transplant survival rates in the country
- Nation’s longest living heart transplant recipient was transplanted at the University of Minnesota and benefited from our innovative care for more than 25 years following transplant.
We are a recognized pioneer in mechanical circulatory support (MCS) or LVAD therapy. We have participated in many clinical trials involving LVAD as a bridge to transplant and as destination or permanent therapy. We are one of a handful of sites in the nation approved to train surgeons and cardiologists in state-of-the-art technologies that include Thoratec® HeartMate® II, Ventracor VentrAssist® LVAD, HeartWare® Ventricular Assist System and Levitronix® CentriMag® Pump.
After the surgery, you stay in the hospital for about one week, and then come back every other week for four weeks for follow-up exams that check for signs of rejection or other complications. There will be very frequent visits during the first year of transplant. At first, the dose of anti-rejection medications will be high, but will decrease over time. In order for your body to continue to accept your new heart, you will take anti-rejection medications for the rest of your life. University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview has a lifelong monitoring program for transplant recipients—the first of its kind—and gives you and your primary care doctor the support you need for ongoing success.
Research and Investigational Risk
University of Minnesota is a dynamic environment that continually benefits patients with the triple thread of academic medicine: research, education and patient care. The synergy between the cardiologists and cardiac surgeons of University of Minnesota Physicians Heart allows us to not only recommend the best therapy for each patient, but to also collaborate on state-of-the-art research that will ultimately benefit our patients. Research can occur in a laboratory or at the bedside. At the University of Minnesota, we are involved in a full spectrum of research.
There are more than 60 active cardiovascular clinical trials underway at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, including studies of all types of heart disease, preventive cardiology, mechanical circulatory support, heart transplant and pulmonary hypertension.
We continue to explore the molecular basis of heart failure and vascular disease through research conducted in our basic science laboratories to better understand the disease and its progression. These discoveries have led to concepts that are actively being applied investigatively in a human population here at the University of Minnesota.
Our cardiothoracic surgeons are trying to fashion a smaller left assist device pump and working to use more and more hybrid procedures and robotic-assisted surgery.
Stem cell use is on the horizon. We have made advances in our research on animals. Applications for the human heart are a breakthrough away.
With pharmaceutical trials, we see incremental progress and at times exponential growth. In every area, you have ready access to our clinical trials or new, promising investigational therapies.