Newark Beth Israel Medical Center Heart Transplant Recovery

Heart transplant recovery usually requires a 7-14 day hospital stay followed by regular follow-up appointments with heart transplant providers. The first year after a heart transplant is the most important, as it is during this critical time that the chances of heart transplant rejection are at their highest.

Patients who complete a successful heart transplant recovery experience a dramatic improvement in quality of life. As with all the steps in the heart transplant process, the Newark Beth Israel heart transplant team provides support throughout recovery.

Recovery time for a heart transplant

The recovery time for a heart transplant is different for every patient. In general, patients can expect a 7-14 day hospital stay. Shortly after their procedure, patients are taken to the cardiothoracic intensive care unit (CTICU) where they are monitored for several days. While in the CTICU, patients can expect:

  • Around the clock skilled nursing care
  • Daily rounds by an entire medical team consisting of cardiac and internal medicine physicians and surgeons
  • Immediately following surgery, patients can expect to remain on a breathing tube, as well as several catheters and drainage tubes that are used to assist with daily bodily functions for the first few days post-surgery
  • A liquid diet that quickly advances to solids as tolerated

Signs of heart rate rejection are carefully monitored during this time. Blood samples are frequently taken to monitor the new heart, check for heart rate rejection markers, and monitor overall health.

Physicians, nurses, physical therapists, and respiratory therapists are all important members of the Newark Beth Israel heart transplant team. They play equally important roles in helping the patient regain strength and function. While under their care:

  • Walking is started one to two days after surgery
  • Breathing exercises are performed
  • Positions in bed are changed
  • Pain and comfort levels are monitored and controlled
  • Heart rate is monitored
  • Infection risks are monitored and mitigated

Patients are usually transferred to a private room 2 to 3 days after their procedure, although this time frame does vary with each patient. It is during this important time that patients learn how to take care of the themselves and their new heart. Special attention should be focused on:

  • Medicine names and doses
  • Nutritional recommendations
  • Blood pressure and pulse
  • Mood and overall well-being
  • Signs of infection and rejection

Recovery time from a heart transplant may vary for each patient. Once the Newark Beth Israel heart transplant team has cleared the patient, they may return to the comfort of their own home.

Heart transplant recovery basics

Heart transplant recovery at home is equally as important as it is in the hospital. Patients and their caregivers are encouraged to be as proactive as possible in their recovery. Taking medicines properly, eating a heart-healthy diet, monitoring blood pressure and pulse, monitoring mood and overall well-being, and checking for signs of infection and rejection is very important during this time.

Also, patients can expect outpatient appointments twice a week for 2 weeks, once a week for 3 weeks, once a month for 6 months, and once every 2 months, or more often if needed, for the first-year post-transplant. During appointments, patients may undergo the following to access heart function and check for signs of rejection and infection:

  • Chest X-ray
  • Echocardiogram
  • Laboratory work
  • Heart biopsy

Patients also meet with their heart transplant coordinator, physicians, and possibly dieticians and pharmacists. An annual exam is performed on average once a year after the first year, or more often if deemed necessary.

Patient Stories

  • “I’m looking to get back not just to 100 percent,” Bernard says, “but 200 percent, where I come back stronger than ever.”

    Bernard
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  • “I know I’m meant to be here for my son. And if my going through this would save a family member, I’d do it all over again.”

    Brittany
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  • “When I first got out of the hospital, I couldn’t even lift a gallon of milk. Now, I’m walking, doing yoga and playing in my band”

    Douglas
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Patient Stories

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