The Heart Transplant Evaluation Process at Tampa General Hospital
The heart transplant evaluation process involves a series of important evaluations and assessments. If your health permits it, you will attend these appointments at Tampa General Hospital, but inpatient assessments can also be arranged.
The heart transplant evaluation process typically takes place in two phases:
- A preliminary assessment, which occurs after your primary doctor or cardiologist refers you to TGH’s Heart Transplant Program. If the referral coordinator determines that you are a good candidate for a heart transplant, he or she will schedule an initial consultation; if the initial consultation goes well, one of our financial counselors will ask your insurance company for authorization to begin the formal heart transplant evaluation process.
- Secondary evaluations, which will help us determine if a heart transplant is the most appropriate treatment for your situation. Over a period of three to five days, we will complete a series of tests. These tests help us determine if you have other diseases that could possibly shorten your life after transplant and if you will be able to adhere to post-transplant requirements. You will need to bring comfortable clothes and walking shoes, reading material for waiting times between heart transplant evaluation tests, and money for food and drinks. You should be accompanied by a family member or friend during each day of tests.
As part of the heart transplant evaluation process, you will also receive:
- A VO2 stress test – During this test, you will breathe into a special mouthpiece while you walk on a treadmill, allowing us to measure your blood pressure, oxygen level, and heart activity.
- An ultrasound of your blood vessels – During this test, a technician will use an ultrasound wand to check the blood vessels in your neck, legs, chest, and abdomen for blocked vessels, blood clots, and other obstructions.
- A left heart catheterization – During this test, we will check for blocked arteries in your heart. If you have not recently had an angiogram, we may perform one during your heart transplant evaluation.
- A right heart catheterization – During this test, a technician will numb an area on your neck and insert a small tube, or a catheter, into a vein. This tube will be used to take measurements of the pressures in your heart and the blood vessels of your lungs. If the pressure is high, IV medications may be given and your response recorded.
- Pulmonary function tests (breathing tests) – During these assessments, we will measure your lung function and assess how well oxygen passes through your blood.
- A Mantoux skin test – During this test, we will check to determine if you have ever been exposed to tuberculosis (TB), an infection that can affect the lungs. If you have ever received a positive Mantoux test prior to your heart transplant evaluation, please inform your evaluation team.
Once the heart transplant evaluation process is complete, your results will be discussed by our Medical Review Board. You will not be at this meeting; however, your transplant coordinator will contact you with the outcome. For some patients, a decision will be made based on the above assessments alone; for others, additional testing may be necessary. If you are found to be a good candidate for a transplant, we will ask your insurance company to authorize the heart transplant procedure.
If you do not meet the heart transplant guidelines or choose not to have the transplant, your heart transplant team will recommend other possible treatment options. If your condition can be managed through medications, a drug regimen will be discussed. If you require more advanced forms of treatment, we may recommend heart surgery, such as bypass surgery or valve repair, a pacemaker or implanted cardiac defibrillator (ICD), or a mechanical pump called a ventricular assist device (VAD). These options can be discussed after the heart transplant evaluation process is complete.
Contact Tampa General Hospital for more information about our heart transplant program. Call 1-800-505-7769 (press 1 for the heart transplant program and ask for the referral coordinator), or call the coordinator directly at (813) 844-4088. TGH's Transplant Institute is ranked #5 for overall transplant volume, making us one of the busiest transplant centers in the nation.