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As soon as a donor heart becomes available you will be contacted by the transplant surgeon. Once you arrive at the hospital you will have an IV placed, blood drawn, and receive a chest x-ray. The surgeon and an anesthesiologist will see you and take your medical history. The surgeon will review the surgical procedure and the risks of the operation with you and your family. There is usually several hours of wait time between notification of donor availability and the actual procedure.
Once it is time for your operation, a team of anesthesiologists will take you to the operating room where you will have additional special IVs placed. You will then be given medications to put you to sleep. A breathing tube will be placed into your airway to help you breathe and a urinary catheter will be placed to drain your bladder during the surgery. As the surgery begins an incision will be made in the midline of your chest.
A heart-lung bypass machine will take over the work of the heart and lungs. While this is occurring another team of surgeons will travel to the donor's hospital. Once there, the team will examine the donor's heart to make absolutely certain that it is a suitable match.
Once the donor team arrives with your new heart the diseased heart will be removed and replaced with the healthy donor organ. The operation usually lasts between five and six hours, but can last longer if you have had previous open-heart surgery or have a left ventricular assist device in place.