Treatment Programs

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Heart Transplant Program

The Heart Transplant Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital Transplant Center offers comprehensive treatment, transplantation and management options for patients with congestive heart failure.

Our Approach

The Heart Transplant Program draws on state-of-the-art technology, leading-edge medical and surgical interventions and more than two decades of experience to provide patients with individualized care before and after their heart transplant.

Treating Congestive Heart Failure With a Multidisciplinary Approach Every Transplant Center patient has a personal care team composed of multiple specialists with expertise in treating congestive heart failure patients, including:

  • Heart failure cardiologists
  • Cardiac surgeons
  • Cardiac nurses
  • Infectious disease specialists
  • Dieticians
  • Therapists
  • Pharmacists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Social workers
  • Financial services representatives
  • Transplant coordinators

The care team meets regularly and works with patients and referring physicians to optimize patients’ lifestyles, striving to provide exceptional care and outcomes.

Advanced Heart Transplant EvaluationAll patients are carefully evaluated to see if they are good candidates for transplant or if their condition can be managed through alternative interventions, including:

  • Medication
  • Medical devices, including a pacemaker
  • Innovative cardiac surgery techniques, including mitral valve repair

Both inpatient and outpatient heart transplant candidates work with a transplant coordinator, who lays the groundwork for their initial evaluation by gathering:

  • Medical information
  • Previous test results
  • Patient medical history, including prior hospitalizations

The coordinator then manages the patient evaluation, which includes:

  • Comprehensive patient education sessions
  • Blood work
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Radiology including chest X-rays
  • Exercise tests
  • Social service evaluation
  • Any special tests needed for a specific patient
  • Assessment of the need for a ventricular assist device, when appropriate

The Heart Transplant Waiting List

Heart transplant patients are placed on the national United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) waiting list, which manages the distribution of organs nationwide. In the New England region, the waiting list is managed by the New England Organ Bank.

Pre-Transplant Care

Your Heart Transplant Program care team will work with you and your local physician to address health care issues that might develop as you wait for your transplant.

We offer:

  • Medications to improve the heart’s function before transplant: We are recognized as world leaders in the development of inhaled nitric oxide and type 5 phosphodiesterase inhibitors to improve right ventricular function in pre-transplant patients
  • Ventricular assist devices (VAD) to improve patients’ quality of life and function status before surgery: We were involved in the original research trials of several devices that are now FDA-approved, including the L-VAD, or Left Ventricular Assist Device, and the HeartMate. We are also part of a multi-institutional study that first showed the positive impact of the continuous flow HeartMate II
  • Minimally invasive implantation procedures: We strive to minimize the number of invasive procedures our patients receive. Our cardiac surgeons are national leaders in minimally invasive implantation procedures for ventricular-assist devices as well as pumps to modify or repair valves, either as an alternative to transplantation or until a donor can be found. But our aggressive approach to finding organs means we rarely need to place VAD in patients as a bridge to transplant.

Transplant, illness and recovery are stressful, and emotional health is an important component of pretransplant care. Our award-winning cardiac transplant psychiatrist specializes in working with patients to help mitigate the particular stresses facing transplant candidates and their families.

Follow-Up Care for a Lifetime

Our commitment to our patients’ wellbeing extends to their postoperative care. Our patients receive help arranging for stays at intermediate care facilities, or the implementation of home services, following discharge.

About This ProgramThe Heart Transplant Program at Mass General is a Medicare-approved center and a founding member of the Massachusetts Heart Transplantation program. 

Leaders in the Field of Heart Transplantation

Our comprehensive screening methods and aggressive approach to identifying and utilizing available organs in neighboring regions allows us to provide transplants to more patients with the shortest wait possible.

Our one-year graft and patient survival rates for heart transplant recipients is 89 percent. Our patients benefit from our outstanding, leading-edge care. We distinguish ourselves not only with our postoperative survival rates but also with our commitment to maximum organ utilization and our expertise in transplant immunology.

View the Transplant Center’s awards and recognitions

Innovating Heart Transplant CareThe Heart Transplant Program has been recognized for innovation and excellence since completing its first heart transplant in 1985. We are also a destination for patients who require multiple organ transplants and advanced care options, including stem cell transplantation, which is offered at few centers nationwide.

We completed the first combined liver/heart transplant in New England in 1993 and New England’s first serial heart/autologous stem cell transplantation for cardiac amyloid in 2000.

Our dedicated team of transplantation management experts, which includes physicians from cardiology and cardiac surgery, offers comprehensive treatment for patients who require transplantation due to a variety of conditions, including:

  • Cardiomyopathy: Any disease of the heart muscle in which the heart loses its ability to pump blood effectively
  • Heart failure: Also known as congestive heart failure, this condition occurs when the heart cannot pump enough oxygenated blood to meet the other organs’ needs
  • Chronic heart conditions that do not respond to other therapies

A Dedicated Referral Line for Physicians and Patients

We provide patients and referring physicians with an experienced access coordinator, a clinician who helps assess patient needs, coordinate appointments and begin the appropriate testing regimen. Contact the Heart Transplant Center’s access coordinator

Calls will be returned within 24 hours.

Clinical Research Studies & Trials

Part of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and the NIH-sponsored Heart Failure Research Network, the Heart Transplant Program is a regional research center with an active clinical trials program. Researchers in the Heart Transplant Program, along with colleagues from the Mass General Corrigan Minehan Heart Center, are involved in a wide variety of clinical trials of new pharmacological agents for the management of heart failure, particularly in the role of pulmonary vascular and right ventricular dysfunction in the progression of heart failure disease.

Developing technologies include:

  • Serial heart and autologous stem cell transplantation: We are using serial heart and autologous stem cell transplantation for treatment of cardiac amyloidosis, (the buildup of abnormal proteins), occurring with primary amyloidosis
  • Sildenafil: We are studying the efficacy of sildenafil (Viagra) and other agents in treating patients with primary pulmonary hypertension
  • Diastolic dysfunction: We are investigating the diagnosis and treatment of patients with heart failure and "diastolic dysfunction”

Other research areas and clinical trials we are conducting include:

  • Desensitizing study into ways to decrease organ rejection in patients whose high antibody levels make it difficult to find an organ for them
  • Evaluating the effect of a new drug (tolvaptan) in heart failure patients with decreased kidney function
  • Examining the effect of implantable defibrillators on survival and a new form of pacing (called cardiac resynchronization therapy or biventricular pacing) on survival
  • Investigating the therapeutic role of nitric oxide in the setting of acute injury to the right ventricle of the heart during a heart attack
  • Studying novel approaches to the noninvasive diagnosis of graft rejection as well as new immunosuppressive medications for managing heart transplant recipients that are undergoing evaluation in multicenter, randomized trials

Patients interested in participating in clinical trials can browse online for open trials.

Conditions and Diseases

The links below provide more information about conditions and diseases that might be treated within this program.

Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy is any disease of the heart muscle in which the heart loses its ability to pump blood effectively.

Congenital Heart Defects

Congenital heart defects occur when the heart or related blood vessels do not develop properly before or at birth.

Heart Failure

Heart failure, also called congestive heart failure, is a condition in which the heart cannot pump enough oxygenated blood to meet the needs of the body's other organs.

Support and Wellness

The Transplant Center is dedicated to ensuring that people understand their health care choices and have the necessary information to make decisions affecting their health and well being. The related support and wellness information listed below can play a role in treatment options.

 

A Patient Guide to Transplantation (PDF)

Read the Transplant Center's award-winning patient education guide, Transplantation: What Do I Need to Know?

¿Qué necesito saber? (PDF)

En español.

The following related clinical trials and research studies are currently seeking participants at Massachusetts General Hospital. Search for clinical trials and studies in another area of interest.

Transplant Center patients and donor families celebrate National Donate Life Month

The Transplant Center celebrated Donate Life Month by raising public awareness about the importance of organ donation and also extending thanks to the many organ donors and families who have given the generous gift of life to others.

Transplant Center recognized as a leader in patient education

Clinicians at the Transplant Center received a National Health Information Award for developing an outstanding patient education book and streamlining the patient evaluation process.

MGH joins study of new heart-assist device

MGH Hotline 9.17.10 The MGH recently became the fifth site nationwide to participate in the study of an innovative rotary blood pump for late-stage heart failure patients.

Neighborhood support inspires transplant recipient John Morelli to help others

A local community’s support for a transplant recipient motivated him to create an organization that helps others.

The journey home

Lacy Neff, a radio broadcaster from West Virginia, recently underwent a heart transplant as part of his treatment plan for amyloidosis, a rare disease that occurs when amyloid proteins accumulate in the organs. The MGH is one of only seven hospitals in the United States studying cardiac amyloid transplants – and the only one in the Northeast.

A heart transplant patient story: Mike Slama

For most of his life, Mike Slama has lived with a heart condition that could only be cured with transplantation. Listen to Mike share how his life changed when he received a new heart at the Massachusetts General Hospital Transplant Center.

Frank Robinson's Story

Watch 46-year-old Frank Robinson tell the story of his life-saving experience at Mass General after a massive coronary.

"Heart in a box" gives new life

For two years, Amy DeStefano struggled with increasing heart complications, leaving her needing a heart transplantation. Through one of Mass General’s clinical trials, Amy became the first person in New England to receive a "heart in a box" transplant. The device circulates blood through the donated heart, keeping it beating and giving doctors more time to perform a transplant.

A Patient Guide to Transplantation (PDF)

Read the Transplant Center's award-winning patient education guide, Transplantation: What Do I Need to Know?

¿Qué necesito saber? (PDF)

En español.

Heart Transplant Program

55 Fruit Street
Boston, MA 02114

Phone: 866-MGH-8910

Public Transportation Access: yes
Disabled Access: yes

Refer a patient to the Transplant Center

Request an appointment for your patient with one of our world-class transplant specialists.

Discover the Transplant Center patient experience

Our approach to patient care brings together a team of transplant specialists who create a personalized treatment plan for each patient.