After spending 20 months on a waiting list, former Vice-President Dick Cheney underwent a heart transplant on Saturday, March 24, 2012. A long-time cardiac patient, Cheney suffered his fist heart attack at age 37.
In 2010, he was diagnosed with end stage heart failure. To help his heart to continue to pump adequate supplies of blood, a left ventricular assist device was implanted.
Heart transplants are the treatment of last resort for those with end-stage heart failure. Heart failure is a life-threatening condition where the heart has become so diseased or damaged that it can no longer do its job and supply the body with enough blood.
End-stage heart failure can be caused by numerous conditions including hereditary heart conditions, viral infections of the heart, heart disease, and heart damaged heart valves or muscles. As the name implies, end-stage heart failure occurs when all other treatment options have been tried without success.
Once a determination is made that no other treatment options exist, a heart transplant may be recommended. Not every person with end-stage heart failure is a candidate for a heart transplant. Determining who is eligible for a heart transplant can be a delicate balancing act.
All patients with end-stage heart failure are obviously extremely ill and have exhausted normal treatment options. However, not all end-stage heart failure patients are well enough to survive a heart transplant.
Heart transplant candidates are evaluated by a team of doctors and other professionals, including a psychiatrist, social worker, transplant coordinator, dietician, cardiologist, and a cardiovascular surgeon. The transplant team evaluates the candidate on a number of different criteria, including age and blood circulation.
In addition, other conditions such as history of cancer, high blood pressure, infections, diabetes, and a history of diseases affecting the kidneys, lungs, or liver are also considerations in determining suitability for a heart transplant.
The mental state of the candidate is also important because heart transplant recipients will have to make lifelong lifestyle changes after the transplant.