Since its inception in 1985, Duke’s heart transplant program has performed more than 1,700 heart transplants -- a number achieved by only a handful of top-tier transplant centers across the country. According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN), we perform more heart transplants than any other center in the country.
If a heart transplant may be in your future, there are many reasons why you should feel confident choosing Duke for your care. Our heart transplant program is one of the nation’s busiest; independent data show we performed more heart transplants than any other center worldwide in 2022. Our team uses advanced techniques to match more hearts with more people who have cardiomyopathy, heart failure, congenital heart disease, and other severe heart conditions. And we have some of the shortest wait times in the region. Our goal is to help you live a longer, more fulfilling life.
Why Choose Duke
Shorter Wait Times
People can spend years on the transplant list waiting to be matched to a heart. Our program has some of the shortest waitlist times on the East Coast. At Duke, we pride ourselves on being resourceful and utilizing as many high-quality donor hearts as possible. That means you may get a heart much faster than you would elsewhere.
If you are interested in making an appointment for an evaluation, please ask your cardiologist to submit a referral
We Offer More Hearts to More People
We offer transplantation to people who have been turned away by other centers. Our clinical research and innovative approaches to recipient and donor selection mean we may be able to help you even if you don’t meet the standard guidelines for transplant.
New Process for Heart Transplants
Duke is a leading center for a process known as Donation after Cardiac Death, or DCD, for heart transplants. Together with the use of a device that keeps the heart beating and viable much longer versus standard procedures, this recently FDA-approved advance may expand the donor pool by up to 30%.
We often accept people seeking a heart transplant who may be at higher-than-average risk, need multiple organ transplants, or have difficult-to-match antibodies. If you’ve been turned down by another heart transplant program, we may be able to help.
Hepatitis C Hearts
We consider accepting hearts from donors with hepatitis C. Because modern hepatitis C medications are so effective, have few side effects, and don’t interact with immune medicines that are required for heart transplant recipients, these hearts can help save lives instead of being discarded.
Hepatitis B Hearts
Duke is among a handful of U.S. institutions that consider accepting hearts from donors with hepatitis B. By vaccinating transplant recipients before transplantation and (if needed) using effective hepatitis B medications after transplant, this increases the donor pool even more, especially for those who are very sick or may have a hard time accessing high-quality organs through the usual matching process.
Heart transplant surgery is performed at Duke University Hospital. Pre- and post-transplant appointments take place at our cardiology clinics in Durham.
With You Every Step of the Way
Mechanical Circulatory Support While You Wait
Keeping you well until transplant is obviously an important step in the process. Ventricular assist devices (VADs) often serve as a bridge to transplant. Our doctors are among the nation’s leaders in VAD development, testing, and implantation. Our program is one of the largest in the world.
We’re also able to offer short-term options like intra-aortic balloon pumps (IABPs) -- devices placed during a catheterization procedure that can relieve some of the heart’s workload for up to 10 days or so. In addition, Duke’s extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) program helps some of the very sickest people by supporting them during transfer to Duke and until transplant.
All of these devices help your body pump and oxygenate blood until a donor heart becomes available.
Helping You Through the Process
Our transplant coordinators, nurses specially trained in heart transplant care, will help you navigate the transplant process and are available to answer all your questions 24/7, from the initial evaluation to preparing for surgery, recovery, and the lifelong follow-up care you’ll need. We provide educational care guides to prepare you and your family for transplant. Dedicated financial coordinators work with you one-on-one to help with the financial aspects of transplantation.
Other Duke Resources and Support
Receiving care at Duke means that you’ll have access to a wide range of experts, should you need them. In addition to heart and other specialists, you’ll also be connected with social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and others who will tend to your mental and emotional needs. We can also put you in touch with former Duke heart transplant recipients who have volunteered to talk with people who are starting the process.
Remote, Written Second Opinion Reports
Get a written second opinion report from a Duke Health specialist in the comfort of your home. A second opinion can confirm a diagnosis, offer a different diagnosis, provide information about the most advanced treatments available, and ensure confidence in your decisions when faced with a serious medical condition. Learn more about our remote second opinion platform and process.
Our doctors are leaders in transplantation research, which gives you access to best practices and new therapies through our heart transplant programs and clinical research.
When it comes to your heart care, you want the very best. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our cardiology and heart surgery program is nationally ranked, and the highest-ranked program in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2023–2024.