Congestive Heart Failure Congestive Heart Failure Treatment

Life After a Heart Transplant

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Summary & Participants

Heart transplant success is determined by your post-surgery quality of life. Successful patients are able to resume activities they enjoyed before the procedure, such as moderate exercise and sexual activity. Join Dr. Mehmet Oz and ex-baseball star and donor-heart recipient Frank Torre, as they discuss the recovery period after heart transplant surgery.

Medically Reviewed On: July 21, 2012

Webcast Transcript

DAVID R. MARKS, MD: What you're watching right now is a new heart arriving at a hospital to be transplanted into the chest of a heart transplant recipient. When that's done, the battle's not over.

I'm Dr. David Marks. Welcome to our webcast. To take us into the post-op period, we have two guests: Frank Torre, who is a former Major League baseball player, had a transplant very recently, and he's going to tell us about his experiences. Welcome.

FRANK TORRE: Good to be here.

DAVID R. MARKS, MD: Next to him is Dr. Mehmet Oz. He is a heart surgeon, and he worked on Frank for his transplantation. He's at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. Thanks for being here.

MEHMET OZ, MD: Wonderful to be here.

DAVID R. MARKS, MD: So, Frank, tell me, how difficult is the post-op period?

FRANK TORRE: Well, within about five days I didn't have a wire on my body, which in itself was a miracle. The most difficult part that I had been through -- because it's been three and a half years now -- was getting used to the medicines and working with your pre-care and post-care -- and I have a little barrel of dynamite, Donna Mancini -- but that's the most difficult thing, working to balance the rejection and infection medicine and trying to suppress your immune system, and then taking different medicines for the side effects. But once you get used to the procedure -- and I watch my diet, I exercise, and I drink a lot of water -- and it's worked for me that way, because I've been able to live a very, very normal life.

DAVID R. MARKS, MD: Is this normal, to feel that good so quickly after a transplant?

MEHMET OZ, MD: It's absolutely normal. In fact, one of the beauties of this operation is that although many fear it, it is in fact a safety net. It allows you to return to a quality of life, a level of existence you never would have anticipated. I remember when Frank first came up from Florida he was moribund, not just physically but emotionally. He really thought there was no future, and many patients are amazed to find that you can live 20 years with a heart transplant, and in fact 90 percent of patients not only survive the operation, but 60 to 70 percent go more than five years. This is one of the most important aspects of heart transplantation, from my perspective, because we worked out the technical issues of how to sew a heart in the sixties. In fact, the operation has been done for three decades. But for an entire decade in the 1970s, the world abandoned heart transplantation. What changed that was the development in the early 1980s of new drugs that were able to suppress certain parts of the immune system without making you completely open to infection. That's one of the major benefits that the pharmaceutical industry has offered us in modern medicine.

DAVID R. MARKS, MD: What are these medicines?

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