How Much Does a Heart Transplant Cost?

Written by: Staff

A heart transplant is a highly specialized procedure typically performed on a patient suffering from severe heart conditions that cannot be treated with medications or other surgeries such as severe cases of angina, heart failure, heart defects and/or life-threatening abnormal heartbeats.

Even if you have one of these conditions, there are still factors to consider before even considering the procedure.  This includes your age, overall health and attitude, according to

Heart by jchapiewsky, on Flickr
Heart” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by jchapiewsky

How much does a heart transplant cost?

According to the National Foundation for Transplants (NFT), the average cost of a heart transplant and the associated first-year expenses is $1 million.  The costs will vary for each patient, however, depending on factors like insurance coverage, the location of the transplant center, the specific health problem of the patient, and overall health condition.

USA Today reports that a revolutionary artificial heart transplant has an expected cost of $190,000 to $220,000, which is on par with the cost of a traditional heart transplant. broke down the costs for the pre-transplant, procurement, hospital admission, physicians fees, post-transplant fees and immuno-suppressants.  When all of these fees are factored in, a heart transplant can total $997,700.

This Fortune infographic proclaims the average heart transplant can cost $1.4 million.

As for insurance, the Keck School of Medicine of USC says expenses by insurance carriers include, but are not limited to the fees for your evaluation, surgeon fees, operating fees, anesthesia costs, the hospital length stay, blood testing, organ recovery costs, rehabilitation costs and/or the costs of medication.

Heart transplant overview

The heart transplant estimates above may or may not include the preliminary testing, surgery, and post-operative recovery.  Specifically, the $1,000,000 average given above typically includes the following medical costs: pre-transplant evaluation and testing, surgery, fees for organ recovery, follow-up care and tests, professional fees (surgeons, physicians, radiologist and anesthesiologist), recurrent lab tests, hospital stay before and after the transplant, additional hospital stays for complications, anti-rejection and other drugs, and rehabilitation (physical, occupational and vocational) as well as insurance deductibles, and insurance co-pays.  Non-medical costs often include food and lodging, long distance phone calls, transportation to and from the transplant center, child care, and lost wages.

Surgery can last up to four hours, and during this time, you will be placed on a heart-lung machine to keep the blood circulating throughout your body.  During this time, the surgeon will remove your heart, while leaving the pulmonary veins open and the back wall of the left atrium intact.  Once the donor heart is in place and begins to beat, you will be removed from the heart-lung machine.

After the surgery, the medical staff will consistently monitor and administer pain medication.  It can be a long process, according to HealthLine, often taking as long as six months for osme.  After the first or second day after the procedure, however, you will be removed from the ICU, but hospital stays can last two to three weeks on average.  Once home, you will be placed on anti-rejection medications to ensure your body doesn’t reject the organ and referred to a cardiac rehabilitation unit to help adjust.

What are the extra costs?

According to the NFT, heart transplant patients typically incur lifetime medical expenses for follow-up care and instructions.  Costs for anti-rejection and other drugs, for example, can easily exceed $2,500 a month without insurance.

Follow-up care can cost over $21,000 a year, but may be higher or lower depending on the cost of medication, cardiologist fees, required tests, the cost of treating complications, and the overall health of the patient.

Travel, food and lodging may be additional expenses to keep in mind while traveling to a hospital.  If plane travel is needed, this will have to be budgeted as well.  This often has to be budgeted for since many transplant centers won’t be close to your home.

Do not forget lost wages if your employer does not pay for time away.

Tips to know:

According to, the average wait time for a heart transplant is 113 days.

Unfortunately, with any medical procedure, there are always possible negative side effects, including blood clots, bleeding during or after the surgery, which can cause the need for infusions, breathing problems resulting from the open chest cavity, kidney failure due to working so hard to clean out your system and/or coronary arteriopathy.

A heart transplant life expectancy, according to The Mayo Clinic, estimates the overall survival rate, after one year, is 88 percent, while the five-year survival rate is 75 percent.

The average heart transplant lasts about 13 years, but the median survival rate, if you take away the early mortality, is about 20 to 22 years, according to Hopkins Medicine.

How can I save money?

Most transplant programs have social workers and/or financial coordinators who can provide assistance to patients and their families to help them deal with the financial aspect of a heart transplant.  Speak with a financial coordinator at a hospital before making any decisions as these financial coordinators can assist you in understanding how your insurance company’s benefits can be applied to the heart transplant procedure.  They can create a financial plan for the payment of the transplant and for the non-medical costs.  They can also assist in finding additional sources of funding when needed.

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