Overview

Learn about our heart transplant program

Almost 1,000 patients have benefited from our expert team and services. We transplant a greater percent of our status 3-6 patients than any other program in the nation. You don’t have to be hospitalized to get a transplant because of our expertise in donor and recipient matching.

Our wait times are among the shortest in the nation. If you’re already on a wait list, dual list with us to greatly increase your chance of receiving an organ offer. We have expertise in multi-organ transplants. We proudly serve our nation’s Veterans as one of a few select centers approved by the Veteran’s Administration.

We are a Center of Excellence for many insurance networks and a certified ECMO Center of Excellence. U.S. News and World Report ranks us as Wisconsin’s number one hospital. We are proud to be the only center in the Midwest actively transplanting hearts, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and multi-organs for adult and pediatric patients. (Learn about our pediatric heart transplant program)

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Why choose UW Health

  • Shorter wait times

    Currently, our wait times are among the shortest in the nation.

  • Transplanting patients sooner

    Our experts transplant patients many other programs would deny, yet our survival rates remain very good.

  • We are national experts

    Our team has vast experience with donor selection to get you your heart sooner. We are one of the first select centers in the nation selected to transplant hearts from cardiac death donors. As appropriate, hearts donated by someone with Hepatitis C can be transplanted to expand access to waitlist candidates.

  • We do multi-organ transplants

    Our surgeons are experienced in multi-organ transplants. They work with our experts in kidney, liver and lung transplantation to manage the complex care of patients who need more than one organ transplanted.

See how we compare

The Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR) provides data about each transplant centers’ volume and outcomes.

Research to advance heart transplant

As an academic medical center, UW Health is dedicated to doing research to improve the lives of people who need heart transplants.

Meet our team

The best team for you

The UW Health heart transplant team is so skilled that they train other physicians and surgeons. They are doing research that helps other heart failure and transplant programs and patients. At every step of your journey, they work together to make sure you have the customized care and support you need to live a more fulfilling life.

Our providers

What to expect

Our transplant process and advanced treatment options

What to expect before and after your transplant

There’s a lot involved in getting a heart transplant. We make things as easy as possible for you. Our specially trained and certified nurse coordinators organize your care. With your physicians, they help you manage your heart failure before surgery and guide you through the transplant process. They’re your go-to source for information, so you always know where to turn for help. We provide thorough education to you, and the people supporting you, and work together to make sure you can return to a good quality of life.

Your first visit is with one of our heart failure/transplant cardiologists. The doctor will evaluate your heart and review your health history. If transplant could improve your quality of life, they will order several tests and consultations with our team. You will be supported by our team of heart transplant specialists, including nurses, social workers, psychologists, nutritionists and financial counselors.

If you are a heart transplant candidate, we place you on the national waiting list. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) matches donor hearts with patients who need them. They base decisions on factors like blood type and body size.

Depending on the urgency of your situation, your wait may be days or years. Our wait times are among the shortest in the nation.

As you await your heart transplant, you may receive care through our Heart Failure Management Program. The program helps you live with your condition until a heart becomes available. Your team will work with you and your support partners to provide support and education about the process, medications and what you can expect after transplant. Our transplant coordinators are always available to answer questions.

Transplant surgeons decide if a donor heart is the right heart for you. Our surgeons have vast experience in evaluating donor hearts to find the best match to give you the best outcome. This experience may help you have a shorter wait time.

While you wait for your heart, you’ll meet with your care team and doctor at least every three months. These meetings allow the doctors to monitor your health and provide support. They will update your data with UNOS which may help shorten your wait time.

We perform your transplant using the most advanced surgical techniques. You stay with us for one to two weeks. During this time, we teach you self-care. You’ll also learn about the medications you’ll take. After you’re discharged from the hospital, we ask that you stay in the area another one to two weeks. We’ll make sure you continue to do well and work to get you home as soon as possible.

You’ll have lifelong follow-up appointments with us after surgery. During the first year, you’ll return for frequent checkups and medical tests. Over time, tests and follow-up visits decrease. Our goal is to help you resume a healthy, active life.

Advanced treatment options

As an academic medical center, we offer the latest technologies and most advanced therapies.

These include mechanical pumps to help keep your heart beating if you need assistance before a new heart becomes available.

UW Health is a national leader in using mechanical circulatory support devices. These pumps help your heart move blood to the rest of your body if you have end-stage heart failure. For some patients, they’re a temporary solution until we can locate a donor heart. For others, they can be an alternative to transplant.

Learn more

We are a Gold Level Center of Excellence for Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO). ECMO is a machine that pumps and oxygenates blood outside the body to sustain life.

Learn more

Location

Heart transplant location information

We offer pre- and post-heart transplant services and transplant surgery at University Hospital in Madison.

We provide heart failure consultations, including consultations for heart transplant, at our convenient heart failure outreach locations.

Patient stories

Heart transplant recipients share their stories

Susan's story

In a span of eight weeks, Susan Siegenthaler gave birth for the first time and had a heart transplant.

Susan Siegenthaler was anticipating the birth of her first child when she noticed that something just wasn't right. Eight weeks later Susan had a new baby, and a new heart. See how multiple UW Health teams collaborated and worked feverishly to save her baby and Susan.

Learn what to expect from a few of our recent heart transplant patients

Patrick Leigh outdoors swinging a golf club and wearing a blue long sleeve hoodie.
Heart transplantPatrick's new heart provides renewed energy
When Patrick Leigh first started having problems running up and down the basketball court eight years ago, he thought he might just be “getting old,” even though he was only in his late 30s.
Heart transplant patient Michael McCarthy
Heart transplantNo magic cure, but heart transplant a miracle for Mike
Even though Mike McCarthy’s cardiologist told him for years he would need a heart transplant, Mike never quite believed him. He always thought researchers would develop a new drug that would magically fix his heart problems.
Jeff and Jennifer Livingston smiling and holding each other in a snowy setting
Heart transplantJeff Livingston gains a new life with his wife by his side
Jeff and Jennifer Livingston are a good team. As they share the remarkable story of Jeff’s heart issues, his life-threatening infection and the surgery that saved him, the stroke that occurred during that surgery, and the resulting heart and kidney transplants that gave him a second chance at life, they take on two distinctive roles: Jennifer is the details person, and Jeff provides the color commentary.
Gary and Dennis Thiel sitting next to each other on a couch
Heart transplantNew hearts give two brothers a greater appreciation for life
Gary and Dennis Thiel of Appleton, WI had no idea what was going on when they began experiencing shortness of breath in their early-to-mid 60s. Little did they dream that 2020, the year that COVID-19 turned life upside down for so many – would become the year that these two brothers would ultimately receive brand new hearts.
David Peterson standing with his arms crossed in a white Wisconsin Badgers polo
Heart transplantDCD and Hep C-positive heart saved David
One Saturday night in January 2021, David Peterson woke up with what felt like the flu. Given the current state of affairs in the world, he was sure he had the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Sarah Russle portrait
Heart transplantSarah bounces back quickly after heart transplant
When many heart transplant recipients tell their story, it includes years of slowly declining heart function, difficulty catching their breath and fatigue that makes it hard to accomplish anything. Not Sarah Russell.

More stories of success

Patient support services

Information and resources

Helpful resources for before and after your transplant

Experts in our heart failure program will help you live with your condition until a heart becomes available. To ease your experience, we offer heart failure services at many outreach locations.

Learn more

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?

A VAD is a machine that helps the heart pump blood. UW Health uses the Heartmate 3™ ventricular assist devices. We transplant a greater percent of our status 3-6 patients than any other program in the nation. You don’t have to be hospitalized to get a transplant because of our expertise in donor and recipient matching.

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) 480-5040.

 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. 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.

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 are 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) 480-5040 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.

National leaders in transplant care

View more information important to every transplant patient.

Transplant services