When doctors remove the sick heart of a person and replace it with another healthy heart (of a donor), this is called heart transplant. Children are also at high risk of heart transplant due to several reasons. When a child’s heart doesn’t work well and it is seen that he may not be able to live without changing the heart, transplants are done. Medical professionals usually call this condition heart failure or pediatric heart disorders. The doctors initially try their level best to treat heart issues with medications, surgery and several other procedures. In case they don’t work, the child may have to undergo a heart transplant.
The organ donors are usually children or adults who (for some specific reason) have become crucially ill due to which they won’t live. In case of an adult donor, he might have shown interest in donating his organs on the event of his death.
Behind the scenes of a heart transplant
When the doctor diagnoses a serious heart issue and thinks that the child will need a heart transplant, he will refer you to a center that specializes in such operations. You’ll sit with a transplant team that comprise cardiologists, surgeons, nurses, transplant coordinator, psychologists, dietitians and social activists. This entire team will perform few tests like:
- Blood tests to check the type of blood
- Echocardiogram where sound waves are used to determine a clear picture of the heart
- Electrocardiogram or ECG that records the electrical impulse of the heart and helps in locating any kind of possible damage
Through this evaluation, the team gradually learns about the heart of the child.
The heart transplant surgery – What actually happens?
The heart transplant team of surgeons will brace your child for the operation and may again perform few last tests in order to make sure that the heart is a perfect match for his body. He will then be taken to the operation theatre. The child will be administered an anesthetic injection due to which he will sleep through the operation. The surgeons will then make a cut through the chest to remove the ill heart. The new healthy heart will be placed and the blood vessels of the new heart will be sewed to the child’s body. Since the cardiologists keep checking the function of the heart, the incision is not sewed right away. Most surgeries take 4-6 hours and while you may be worrying about the condition of your child, there will always be a nurse who will keep you informed about the progress of the surgery.
What risks may occur?
Rejection is one of the common problems faced by patients post transplant surgery. This happens when the body is not able to recognize the new heart and doesn’t understand that it’s helpful for the body. The immune system will begin to attack it. Anti-rejection medicines are then used to deceive the body into welcoming the new heart. Such medicines may make your child vulnerable to infections.
Kids who have already had heart transplants are all leading normal and healthy lives after recovering from the surgery. Ensure giving your child all the medicines on time and motivate him to take enough rest, workout daily and eat well.