“Most of the heart transplant recipients are younger patients suffering from Dilated Cardiomyopathy in the age group of 30 to 45”, said Dr. Bagirath Raghuraman, Senior Consultant Transplant Cardiologist at Narayana Health City, Bengaluru. “A heart transplant increases life expectancy and gives them new hope, improving the quality of life of these patients”, he added.
It was also observed that donors, most of whom are road accident victims declared brain dead are very young. According to experts, donor hearts that are beyond 45 years of age are usually not accepted since they do not find it suitable for transplant. On the other hand, those under the age of 65 years are considered eligible for transplant (recipient). Therefore, it is seen that the average age of the donor for heart transplant is usually between 20 to 30 years and that of the recipient is between 30 to 50 years.
The recent trend shows an increase in the number of heart transplants at the two units of Narayana Health in Bangalore. Of the 26 heart transplants, more than 50% have been done in the last 18 months. “The awareness has increased as media also plays an important role in spreading the message about organ donation. We see more number of people coming forward to pledge their organs and more number of families are giving consent to donate organs”, informed Dr. Nagamalesh U M, Senior Consultant Cardiologist and Transplant Physician at M S Ramaiah Narayana Heart Centre. The unit has done seven heart transplants since December 2015 and the remaining heart transplants were done at Narayana Health City.
The patients identified for heart transplants are managed by a team of professionals at the Heart Failure Clinic in both the hospitals. The Heart Failure Clinic provides advanced management of heart failure patients. “Those managing Heart Failure need to be aware that transplant is available as an option in cases of advanced heart failure, when managing becomes difficult”, said Dr. Nagamalesh.
Advanced heart failure needs advanced treatment. The Heart Failure Clinic also provides post-transplant continuous care.
“Heart Failure patients will be on medication for a long period of time and only when medicines are no longer effective and hospital visits become frequent, we assess them for a heart transplant”, said Dr. Bagirath. “The good news is that 15 to 20% of the cases are reversible cardiac conditions who may not need a transplant. There are very good medications available now to treat heart failure”, he said.
In their opinion the doctors expressed that public funding and insurance participation must increase to cut cost of medications for transplant and for reduction in the procedure cost. Many are hesitant to get a transplant done as costs are high. “There is a need to initiate a transplant funding mechanism”, declared Dr. Bagirath.