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Learn about our heart transplant program
More than 900 patients have trusted us for their heart transplant care. Many were people with cases so complex that other centers wouldn’t consider them for transplant. 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.
U.S. News and World Report ranks us as one of the nation’s top heart hospitals, Wisconsin’s number one hospital and among the top two percent of hospitals in the nation. We are a Center of Excellence for most insurance networks and a certified ECMO Center of Excellence for ventricular assist devices and heart transplantation.
Begin the transplant process, request information from our teamRequest information
Why choose UW Health
Shorter wait times
Currently, our wait times are among the shortest in the nation.
We have excellent patient outcomes
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 using a device that preserves heart function between donation and transplant.
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.
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 and will go to great lengths to recover donor hearts. 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, artificial heart transplants and a clinical trial for transplants using hearts donated from cardiac death donors.
UW Health is a national leader in using mechanical circulatory support devices. We are the only program in the state that can implant them without opening your entire chest. 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.
We are one of just a few programs in the country to offer these devices as permanent treatment. This shortens your recovery time. It may also make things easier at the time of your transplant.
Some people need more than a mechanical circulatory support device before a donor heart is found. At UW Health, we can implant a total artificial heart and care for patients who receive it.
We are one of the first select centers in the nation participating in a clinical trial of a device that circulates warm, oxygenated blood through the donated heart. This preserves heart function until it is ready to be transplanted. This work could increase the number of hearts available for transplant by 30 percent.
We are Wisconsin’s only 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.
Heart transplant location information
We offer pre- and post-heart transplant services and transplant surgery at University Hospital in Madison.
Heart transplant recipients share their stories
Learn what to expect from a few of our recent heart transplant patients.
Patient support services
Information and resources
Helpful resources for before and after your transplant
The program helps you live with your condition until a heart becomes available.
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™ 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.
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. 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.
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) 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