Heart Transplant Frequently Asked Questions
For new patients:
For clinic appointments:
For all other inquiries:
Why is UW Health the best place to have a heart transplant?
U.S. News & World Report recently ranked University of Wisconsin Hospitals in the top 2 percent of hospitals in the nation and as the No. 1 hospital in Wisconsin.
Our cardiology and heart surgery team ranked 25th in the nation and was listed in the top 25 percent in heart failure, abdominal aortic aneurysm repair, aortic valve surgery and heart bypass surgery. Our heart failure/advanced heart disease/transplant cardiologists and heart transplant surgeons are among the nation's most experienced physicians. They train other physicians and surgeons and are doing research that helps all heart failure and transplant programs and patients.
We are a Center of Excellence for ECMO and heart transplantation. UW Health is one of five programs in the U.S. approved to transplant donation after cardiac death donor hearts - and we have expertise in donor heart selection - making more hearts available for transplant. We are approved to implant the total artificial heart and are the only program in Wisconsin implanting ventricular assist devices without opening the entire chest, which shortens recovery and helps at time of transplant.
UW Health is one of five Veteran's Administration approved centers in the nation for destination therapy LVAD and heart transplantation.
Does a heart transplant cure heart failure?
A heart transplant replaces a heart that is failing with a healthy donor heart. Heart failure symptoms will greatly improve or end. People who suffer from severe heart failure or advanced heart disease of varying causes that do not respond to medicine or surgery are considered for heart transplant. Candidates for transplant should have no other life-limiting medical problems and will need the support of family and friends.
What ventricular assist devices (VAD) are used at UW Health?
An VAD is a machine that helps the heart pump blood. UW Health uses the Heartmate 3™ and Heartware™ ventricular assist devices. We are the only program in Wisconsin implanting ventricular assist devices without opening the entire chest, which shortens recovery and helps at time of transplant. We have transplanted more status 4 patients than any other center in our region and we're transplanting patients with ventricular assist devices three times faster than any other program in the Midwest.
How long do people wait for a heart transplant at UW Health?
Wait times depend on the severity of condition and the time it takes to find a heart donor of similar size and weight with a compatible blood type. For heart transplants performed between December 1, 2018, and November 31, 2019, our median wait time for heart transplant was 28 days, significantly lower than the one-year national median wait time.
Can I double list for heart transplant at UW Health if I'm already waitlisted at another program?
Patients already on a wait list at another transplant center can double list (dual list) with UW Health to greatly increase their chance of transplant. Fill out an online form to Request Information About UW Health Transplant Programs or call (608) 263-1690.
Will my insurance cover the cost of my heart transplant? How much?
UW Health is a Center of Excellence for most insurance networks and has contracts with many insurance providers, Medicare and Wisconsin Medicaid. You need to contact your insurance company to find out your coverage for the costs of your transplant surgery. After contacting your insurance company, if you still have questions, you may call (608) 263-1503 and ask for one of our transplant financial counselors who can assist you.
What are the UW Health success rates for heart transplant?
Our highly experienced team has performed more than 800 heart transplants. In 2019, we performed 40 heart transplants, more than other Wisconsin programs. Our one-year patient survival rate for heart transplant is 89.7%.
When will I be listed for heart transplant, if it is decided that I would benefit from one?
Listing for heart transplant will take place after thorough testing is done, results retrieved and evaluated and it is determined that the benefits outweigh the risks. The patient's insurance company is then contacted for eligibility of payment. After this is secured, they will be listed.
How are donor organs matched to a recipient?
People who are approved for heart transplant are placed on a waiting list that is managed by the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS). This non-profit organization matches organs to patients based on blood type, body weight and size, and health.
How many times will I have follow-up appointments after heart transplant?
Heart transplant is a lifelong commitment to regular follow-up care at UW Health. Patients and their support person(s) are required to stay in the Madison area for one to two weeks after discharge. Right after discharge, patients will have weekly heart biopsies, lab tests and clinic visits. Appointments will progress to every other week, followed by every four weeks, every six weeks, every three months and then every three to six months for life.
How many medications do heart transplant recipients have to take?
Heart transplant recipients take an average of 10 to 15 different medications every day. After the first year, some medications may be stopped and others decreased. Taking all medications as prescribed is extremely important. The transplant coordinators, pharmacists and staff nurses will teach patients and their support person(s) how to manage these medications so that everyone is comfortable before the patient goes home.
If I am interested in your heart transplant program, what is my first step and what can I expect?
Fill out an online form to Request Information About UW Health Transplant Programs or call (608) 263-1690 to talk with our heart failure/advanced heart disease/transplant cardiologists. Patients can also ask their local doctor to contact us to arrange a referral to our heart transplant program.