The Yale Heart Transplant and Left Ventricular Assist Device Program is a rapidly expanding service at the front lines of treating heart failure. Launched in 1988, the program builds upon decades of experience treating failing hearts. In 2019, we performed 49 heart transplants, putting us among the top centers of the country. Our left ventricular assist device program treats more cases than any other program in the Northeast. It provides heart pumps for patients who need support while they are waiting for a donor heart or who are ineligible for a transplant and need another permanent solution.

Heart transplants are the gold standard treatment for patients with end-stage heart failure. But many face a long, difficult wait for a donor heart, and some don’t survive. Yale Medicine is one of a handful of centers in the country to push existing boundaries in heart transplant by aggressively seeking out donor hearts other centers turn down even though they may be suitable for some patients. This process, using what’s called “donation after circulatory death” (DCD) organs, is helping more of our patients get heart transplants sooner. What’s more, our one-year survival rates for heart transplants—93%—are better than the national average.

Multi-organ transplants

People who live with heart failure have a high likelihood of also having kidney dysfunction from a variety of causes, and this can be a limiting factor in being able to get a heart transplant. For these patients, our heart specialists collaborate with Yale Medicine’s world-class abdominal transplant team and have achieved a robust volume and successful track record in performing heart-kidney transplants.

Pioneers in LVAD

Yale Medicine helped to pioneer the use of left ventricular assist devices (LVADs), providing patients whose hearts are too weak to function on their own with implantable devices that can pump blood for them. Yale Medicine is one of the leaders in the Northeast in volume and outcomes with LVADs and is certified by the Joint Commission, the nation’s predominant standard-setting and accrediting body in health care.

Each one of our patients is treated by a team that includes cardiologists, transplant surgeons, infectious disease specialists, nephrologists, critical care doctors, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, nutritionists, and transplant coordinators, among others. Transplant doctors at Yale are national leaders in the field. Currently, the presidents of United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) and the American Society of Transplantation are at Yale, and they have helped to write the guidelines for how to treat patients after solid organ transplants as the field advances.

Outcomes above average

Patients whose future once seemed difficult have survived for decades after a heart transplant or LVAD implant. The average one-year survival after a Yale Medicine heart transplant is 93%, which is higher than the national average. This is partly due to meticulous follow-up care that includes treatment with immunosuppressant drugs that have vastly improved over the last decade, and careful monitoring for complications. Support from the medical team, family, and friends helps as well. Every patient treated at Yale becomes a part of our family.