The Transplant Center at Cleveland Clinic in Florida is home to one of South Florida’s fastest-growing heart transplant programs. Our program builds upon the world-renowned success of Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. Heart transplants are among the many advanced treatments we offer patients experiencing advanced heart failure.
Heart Transplant at Cleveland Clinic in Florida: Why Choose Us?
Patients who come to us for heart transplantation benefit from:
- Depth of expertise: We successfully perform more heart transplants in Southern Florida every year than any center in the region. Patients from across Florida and from nearby states and countries come to us for our heart transplant expertise. Patients receive care from a dedicated heart transplant team. Our heart transplant surgeons have decades of experience and dual medical licenses to perform heart transplants in Florida and Ohio.
- Proven heart transplant success: Our patient survival rates are similar to national heart transplant averages. More than 8 in 10 patients experience a three-year survival after transplantation. This success rate is especially remarkable given the complex medical needs of the patients we treat.
- Transplants for complex cases: Our transplant team manages rare and challenging indications for heart transplantation. We treat patients that other centers turn away due to high-risk factors. We offer hope and help for the most complicated diagnoses. We also have the expertise to perform heart-kidney transplants. See if you’re a heart transplant candidate.
- Expanded access to donor hearts: Our team evaluates every potential donor heart. To improve the chances of a successful outcome, we minimize the time between donation and transplantation. When necessary, we take steps to quickly improve the health of a donor heart. For instance, we may give medications that reduce fluid buildup and improve heart function before removing the organ for transplantation. Find out what to expect from a heart transplant.
- Shorter wait times for donor hearts: Our wait times are among the shortest in the state and nation. More than 78% of our patients receive a new heart during their first year on the transplant waitlist. This is 20% faster than the national average wait time.
- Advanced heart failure treatments: Our heart failure team is one of the best in the region. We offer the latest heart failure treatments to support heart function before transplantation (bridge to transplant). Patients who don’t want or can’t get a heart transplant also benefit from these heart failure treatments.
- Access to heart failure clinical trials: Our heart transplant specialists are active in heart failure and heart transplant research and clinical trials. You may be able to try leading-edge heart failure therapies not widely available to the public. Learn more about clinical trials.
World-renowned cardiology services
Heart transplants take place at our Cleveland Clinic Weston Hospital, a Blue Distinction® Center+ for adult heart transplants. This means our facility is recognized for both expertise and efficiency in performing these procedures.
Newsweek lists us as the highest-ranked hospital in South Florida and one of the best in the nation. All hospitals at Cleveland Clinic in Florida are consistently recognized among the best in the state. Learn more about our recognitions and rankings.
Team approach to heart transplantations
You receive the highest-level care from our cardiology team and other experts from various medical specialties. We coordinate care services with your referring cardiologist.
A dedicated heart transplant nurse coordinator serves as your primary point of contact. These specialists provide guidance before and after heart transplantation. An expert is available 24/7 to address questions and medical issues.
Care team members may include specialists in:
- Critical care and pulmonology.
- Endocrinology (diabetes).
- Obesity and weight loss.
- Infectious diseases.
- Nephrology (urology and kidney).
- Support services.
- Transplant pharmacy.
Convenient access to cardiology services
We make it easy for patients everywhere to access leading heart transplant care at Cleveland Clinic in Florida. For patients initially receiving heart failure care elsewhere, our advanced heart failure and transplant cardiologists partner with referring cardiologists. This partnership provides seamless, convenient access to pre- and post-transplant recovery care.
You also have access to:
Heart Transplant Candidates
The heart transplant team at Cleveland Clinic in Florida works with referring cardiologists to determine heart transplant eligibility. Often, we can help even when other centers decline to do a transplant due to high risk factors. Other medical centers regularly refer complicated cases to us for heart transplantation.
We carefully review each patient’s unique health situation. We only recommend heart transplantation when other, less invasive approaches won’t provide the best outcomes.
Indications for a Heart Transplant
Heart failure (also called congestive heart failure) is the top reason patients need heart transplants. The heart muscle becomes too weak to circulate enough blood through your body. As a result, your body doesn’t get the oxygen and nutrients it needs.
Many conditions can weaken your heart, leading to heart failure, such as:
- Cardiotoxicity from chemotherapy.
- Congenital heart disease.
- Coronary artery disease.
- Heart attack (myocardial infarction).
- Heart valve disease.
Heart Transplant Evaluation Process
A heart transplant is a major surgical procedure that affects physical, mental and financial health. Heart transplant recipients need medications for life to prevent organ rejection. All potential heart transplant recipients undergo thorough physical and mental health assessments to determine transplant eligibility. These evaluations also ensure patients have the support and resources they need.
The evaluation process for a heart transplant includes:
- Heart imaging: Experts in our Cardiovascular Imaging Program perform a range of advanced cardiac imaging tests to evaluate your heart function and overall health. These specialists have deep experience interpreting scans to diagnose heart conditions and disease severity quickly and accurately. This information guides our transplant team’s decision-making process.
- Physical examination: A physical exam may involve blood tests, urine tests, cancer screenings, lung tests, dental examinations and other screenings.
- Psychosocial evaluation: Emotional stability and a strong support system are critical to post-transplant recovery and success. Our transplant social worker will evaluate your coping strategies, social support and financial status to determine the impacts of a heart transplant.
Meeting heart transplant criteria
Many patients with heart failure have other conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, lung disease or kidney problems. These conditions and associated complications may make a patient ineligible for heart transplantation.
To improve disease management and optimize a patient’s health, our heart transplant team taps the expertise of various Cleveland Clinic specialists. Working together, we help get patients well enough to qualify for a heart transplant.
We also have the expertise to perform heart transplants on medically fragile patients who need inpatient hospital care while waiting for a donor heart. When appropriate, we perform heart-kidney transplants.
Help for patients with heart failure and obesity
A temporary left ventricular assist device (LVAD) supports a failing heart while patients undergo and recover from bariatric (weight loss) surgery. Learn more about this innovative bridge-to-heart-transplant approach.
Next steps to heart transplantation
If you’re a candidate for a heart transplant, we place you on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) national heart transplant waitlist. UNOS uses a six-tier system to determine the medical urgency of a heart transplant. Tiers 1 to 3 are the most urgent. These patients are usually hospitalized while waiting for transplantation. Patients in tiers 4 to 6 are more stable, which means the transplant urgency is lower.
Our heart transplant program has one of the state's shortest heart transplant wait times. But it can take months or years to find the right donor heart for your body size, blood type and needs. Some patients need LVADs or other advanced heart failure treatments to support heart function until transplantation. This is a bridge to transplant. LVADs also promote longer, active lives for patients who aren’t eligible for a heart transplant or choose not to get one.
What To Expect
Placement on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) national waitlist is one of the first steps to heart transplantation. The heart transplant process is complex, making it challenging to navigate.
Our transplant nurse coordinators are here for you. These specialists can answer questions, provide resources and ensure you’re prepared when a donor heart becomes available.
Heart Transplant Next Steps at Cleveland Clinic in Florida
Transplant nurse coordinators guide you and your family. They’ll take you through these next steps if our heart transplant team determines you’re a heart transplant candidate.
Some patients with advanced heart failure need supportive treatments to keep their heart working until a transplant takes place. This treatment approach is called a bridge to transplant. Patients receive advanced care at the Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute at Cleveland Clinic in Florida, which provides the latest heart failure treatments as a bridge to transplant.
Outpatient heart failure treatments
Outpatient heart failure treatment options include:
- Left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) and other mechanical circulatory support devices.
- Medications to improve heart function.
- Remote heart failure monitoring.
Inpatient heart failure treatments
Inpatient heart failure treatments include:
- Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), an artificial heart-lung bypass machine.
- Intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP) therapy, to help the heart pump blood temporarily.
Heart transplant candidates who participate in cardiac rehabilitation before and after transplantation may have an easier post-transplant recovery. Our Preventive Cardiology & Rehabilitation Program specialists guide you through exercise programs that help build strength. They also offer specialized programs to support heart-healthy lifestyle changes like smoking cessation and dietary changes.
Convenient heart and health examinations
Our team follows UNOS guidelines, which require assessing a heart transplant candidate’s heart and overall health every three months. A worsening heart condition may move you higher on the waitlist and improve the chances of finding a donor heart faster.
A severe decline in heart function or physical health may mean removal from the heart transplant waitlist. Should this occur, our team develops a treatment plan that eases symptoms and offers you the best possible quality of life.
We make it easier for you to get heart exams and pre-transplant care. In many instances, you can continue seeing your primary cardiologist. Our team partners with your doctor to ensure proper testing and seamless care delivery.
Other options include:
Preparing for a Heart Transplant
A heart transplant nurse coordinator will contact you when a donor heart is available. You shouldn’t eat or drink anything after getting this call.
Safely head to the Transplant Center at Cleveland Clinic in Florida. Upon admission, you’ll get a physical examination, blood tests, chest X-rays and other tests. Our team will address any questions or concerns before surgery.
Find out what to expect during post-transplant recovery.
Anyone can contact Cleveland Clinic Florida’s transplant team to be evaluated for cardiac transplantation or other therapies for heart failure. Our coordinator will review the patient’s records and arrange a visit with one of the heart failure cardiologists. The evaluation by the heart failure cardiologist may take place in the hospital or in the outpatient clinic.
A multidisciplinary team of heart doctors, nurses, social workers, pharmacists and dieticians can review the patient’s medical history, diagnostic test results, social history and psychosocial evaluation results to see if the patient is able to survive the heart transplant procedure and comply with the continuous care needed to live a long healthy life.
The purpose of the evaluation is to determine the severity of the heart disease, and which form of therapy is best suited to for the condition. We do not recommend cardiac transplantation unless it is absolutely necessary, and likely to be associated with long-term success. Often times, other treatments are possible, including other surgical options.
A patient may undergo a variety of tests to determine the extent of their heart disease and what has caused it. If these tests have been performed recently, they may not need to be repeated.
An Electrocardiogram records the electrical activity of the heart. It documents abnormal heart rhythms, previous heart attacks, and thickening of the heart muscle.
The Chest X-Ray provides a picture on film of the structures in the chest. It helps to determine the size of a patient’s heart, status of the lungs and bony structures. It also determines whether fluid or congestion is present in the lungs.
A complete blood count, comprehensive metabolic profile, and protime INR are performed for the patient during the evaluation period. If further testing is indicated, then blood typing and tissue typing will be performed. We will also check previous exposure to hepatitis, HIV, and other infectious agents.
High frequency sound waves are used to provide pictures of the heart’s valves and heart chambers. It helps us to determine the size and function of a patient’s heart.
Pulmonary function test
A machine measures the rate and amount of air inhaled and exhaled through a mouthpiece. This test helps to evaluate lung function. Poor lung function would exclude a patient from cardiac transplantation, and dictate alternative therapies.
Each patient’s recovery after a heart transplant is unique. It can vary depending on your age and overall health at the time of transplantation. Our heart transplant team ensures you have the care, resources and support you need for a successful transplant and recovery. We provide world-class care throughout the transplant process and beyond.
After a Heart Transplant: Next Steps
You continue receiving the highest-level medical care that you expect from Cleveland Clinic during post-transplant recovery. Our heart transplant team closely monitors your recovery. And your transplant nurse coordinator is always available for you and your family.
Here’s what to expect after a heart transplant:
Cardiothoracic intensive care
After surgery, you recover in our Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit (CTICU). You’ll have a temporary breathing tube and won’t be able to talk. You can nod or blink to answer yes-or-no questions from your care team and family.
After we remove the breathing tube (usually within 24 hours), we’ll show you how to do deep breathing and coughing exercises. These exercises help prevent postoperative pneumonia.
Most heart transplant recipients move to our Transplant Special Care Unit within three days. You may go home 10 to 14 days after surgery. Patients with complex needs may need more time in the hospital.
Going home after a heart transplant
The surgical incision can take eight weeks or longer to heal fully. During this time, you may have pain, itching, numbness or tightness around the incision area.
Before you leave our Transplant Center, our team makes sure you and your caregivers know:
- How to care for the surgical incision.
- Warning signs of wound infection and organ rejection.
- What medicines you need, when to take them and potential drug side effects.
- Dietary restrictions, such as following a low-sodium, low-fat diet.
- Limits to activities, such as not driving or lifting objects weighing more than 10 pounds until your doctor gives the OK (usually six weeks after surgery).
Post-transplant cardiac rehabilitation
Our Preventive Cardiology & Rehabilitation Program helps you regain strength and stamina after a heart transplant. Our cardiac rehabilitation specialists closely monitor your new heart as you safely engage in physical activity. They also help you make heart-healthy lifestyle and dietary changes.
Physical activity and a healthy diet can lower your chances of developing transplant coronary artery disease (TxCAD). With TxCAD, inflammation (not plaque) causes the arteries to swell and become narrow. TxCAD is a form of chronic organ rejection.
Convenient post-transplant care
After a heart transplant, you need weekly or biweekly medical assessments for at least six months. Our team uses blood tests and advanced cardiac imaging tests to look for signs of organ rejection.
We also monitor for side effects from the immunosuppressant drugs you must take for life to prevent organ rejection. Depending on your health status, you’ll eventually get monthly and then annual checkups.
We make it easier for you to get post-transplant care close to home. Our team keeps your primary cardiologist informed of your progress through each step of the transplant process. After our heart transplant surgeon clears you, you can receive follow-up tests and care from your primary cardiologist.
Appointments & Locations
Patients and referring physicians may access our dedicated Transplant Center phone line at 954.659.6740 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.