Before a Heart Transplant

Getting a Referral

You can start the evaluation process by either:

  • Having your doctor give you a referral
  • Contacting our referral coordinator 

The coordinator will collect basic medical information. A financial counselor will then ask you basic questions about finances and begin communicating with insurers.

Evaluation

Patients go through an evaluation that includes:

  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Blood work
  • Exercise and lung function tests
  • Echocardiogram and CT or MRI scans

Patients then meet individually with members of the transplant team, including the doctors, surgeons, transplant coordinator, financial coordinator, social worker and nutritionist.

Wait List Recommendation

A selection committee here at UVA uses results from your evaluation to determine your eligibility for the national waiting list. 

If our team decides a transplant is not the best option for you, we will recommend a program of care. We may prescribe follow-up visits that allow us to monitor your heart condition.

We will notify you of the committee's decision in person, by phone or mail.

Organ Waiting Lists

The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), a federally regulated, non-profit organization, manages the nationwide wait list for transplant organs. UNOS uses a complex set of factors to ensure distribution of organs happens fairly.

Waiting for an Organ

Available hearts generally go first to heart transplant candidates on continuous intravenous heart medications or heart pumps, also called ventricular assist devices (VADs).

The waiting time for a heart in our region is one to three years. Some patients become so sick that they can no longer tolerate the stress of surgery and may be removed from the list. This is a difficult decision for the patient and transplant team. Nationally (and here at UVA), about 20-25 percent of people on the wait list will die while waiting for the transplant.