Your heart is an organ about the size of your fist. It is behind your breastbone, slightly to the left. 

It is responsible for pumping blood through your arteries to your body and back through the veins. This is called the cardiovascular system.

Common reasons for transplant

You may need a heart transplant if you have:

  • Cardiomyopathy - a group of diseases of the heart muscle. The heart becomes weakened or stiffened.
  • Inflammation of the heart muscles causes the muscles to fail
  • Coronary heart disease - blockages or narrowing of the blood vessels leading to the heart.

When it goes wrong

Heart problems can develop for many reasons. Some may exist from birth because the heart never developed properly. Your heart may also develop problems if:

  • The arteries supplying blood to the heart muscle become too narrow or get completely blocked
  • Disease or illness causes your heart to become enlarged, thickened or stiffened
  • Your heart’s pumping rhythm becomes irregular

We can treat most of these conditions with medicines. A small number of people can be treated with other actions and heart transplant.

Other facts

  • You can have more than one organ transplanted at the same time, for example, a heart and lung transplant
  • In 1967, the first successful human heart transplant took place in Cape Town, South Africa. 
  • The heart muscles work hard - about twice as hard as your leg muscles
  • Your heart can pump blood to every cell in your body in less than a minute
  • You will need long term immunosuppression after a heart transplant

Heart transplants

A heart transplant is replacing a diseased heart with a healthy one from a donor. The procedure takes several hours.

Further information