Heart Failure & Transplant Institute

celebrating 30 years at Baptist Health's Heart Failure & Transplant Institute

30 Years of Unmatched Treatment and Life-Saving Care

At Baptist Health Heart Failure and Transplant Institute, we’re proud to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Arkansas’ first heart transplant.

Heart failure presents a world of challenges only those with a heart condition understand, but you don’t have to face those obstacles alone. The Baptist Health Heart Failure and Transplant Institute offers a seamless care path for advanced heart failure patients who will eventually require advanced heart failure therapies – from management to a ventricular assist device to transplantation.

No other hospital in the state can offer this level of care.

Our First Heart Transplant, 1989

Baptist Health Heart Failure and Transplant Institute is one of the most comprehensive heart transplant centers in the country. Arkansas’s first heart transplant was completed at Baptist Health-Little Rock in November 1989, and since that time, more than 289 heart transplants have been performed. Baptist Health was also the first in Arkansas to implant a left ventricular device (LVAD) and have since implanted more than 400 of these life-extending devices.

As a patient in our Heart Failure Program, you have access to the most comprehensive set of heart failure management protocols available in the state – provided by some of the region’s most renowned cardiologists.

The Baptist Health Heart Failure and Transplant Institute has been recognized for expertise in delivering specialty care by Blue Cross Blue Shield as a Blue Distinction Center for adult heart transplants. We also actively participate in heart failure clinical trials, advancing our collective knowledge about beneficial therapies.

For more information, call us at (501) 202-1500. We will help you through the process of determining the next step towards managing your heart failure, providing the support you need to pursue the full, healthy life you deserve. 

Will you qualify for an advanced surgical procedure?

Once it has been determined that medications and lifestyle changes alone are not providing you with an adequate quality of life, it’s time to consider surgical therapies.

After comprehensive tests, a heart failure specialist will tell you if you qualify as a candidate for a heart transplant or possibly an LVAD (left ventricular assist device). You and your family will be guided through the difficult decision making process. Of course, as the patient you are the ultimate decision maker. Some patients won’t qualify for or want advanced therapies. In these cases, we work closely with patients, helping them manage their heart failure for the rest of their lives.

Considerations for both heart transplants and LVADs:

If your heart failure has become quite severe and diagnostic tests like a right heart catheterization demonstrate that you are very ill, you are probably on a continuous IV drug to help your heart contract well enough to pump blood supply that is barely adequate. At this point you will be seriously evaluated as a transplant or LVAD candidate.

There are several conditions that may prevent you from having a heart transplant or LVAD implant:

  • Any active cancer in the past five years
  • Severe Type 1 (primary) pulmonary hypertension
  • Bad lung function from severe COPD or restrictive lung disease
  • Patients with a history of GI bleeding will need to be carefully evaluated
  • Severe arterial disease including calcifications and plaque

Please note that the wait for a donor heart can be long; several months to a year is common. People who become progressively ill while on the waitlist may require an LVAD implant as a “bridge” to transplantation. As heart failure worsens, we prefer that at least part of your cardiology care is provided by a heart failure specialist in order to predict an end-stage situation with time to react.

Keep in mind that there are only around 2,000 adult donor hearts available each year for the over 200,000 people who die from heart failure in the U.S. These donor hearts are precious resources and go first to the sickest patients and then to those who have the physical profile and support structure that justifies a decision that they can be a successful heart transplant patient. LVADs are easier in one respect; they are manufactured and therefore supply is not a problem.  

Other factors that may guide your decision: 

A patient may be medically a good candidate but have no social support structure (caregivers or dependable long-term assistance). If the patient has no support structure, especially in the first few months after surgery, we will have to decline the surgery because of risk of infection or other complications that could be too much to manage without help. 

Insurance may be the determinant of whether you can get an advanced therapy. First, you need good medical insurance, and not all insurance plans cover all procedures. For example, in Arkansas, Medicaid will pay for a transplant but will not pay for LVAD. If you are getting sicker and you only have a Medicaid option, a heart failure specialist needs to see you early to place you on the list for transplant – because that is your only option.

To help you understand how to meet these financial challenges, including how to make your way through the insurance maze, we suggest you review your situation with one of our health financial counselors.

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