Heart and Lung Transplantation

The thoracic organ transplant program at UNC Hospitals offers heart, lung and heart-lung transplantation. The UNC transplant team includes board-certified thoracic surgeons who have completed formal thoracic transplant fellowships, adult and pediatric cardiologists, adult and pediatric pulmonologists, anesthesiologists, transplant coordinators, social workers, physical therapists, infectious disease specialists, radiologists and pathologists.

More About Lung Transplantation
More About Heart Transplantation
Appointments/Questions
Transplant Facilities
Evaluation
Candidacy
Transplantation and Follow-Up

Appointments/Questions

To make appointments for evaluation, to ask questions about individual patients, or to request additional information, please contact one of the transplant surgeons at (919) 966-3381 or coordinators at the phone numbers below:

UNC Thoracic Transplant Program
UNC Transplant Office: (919) 966-6457 or (888) 263-5293
Fax: (919) 843-0564

The heart transplant coordinator at UNC is Katie McMahon (919-966-2902).

Surgeons and their transplantation specialties:

Pediatric heart transplantation:  Michael R. Mill, M.D., Jennifer S. Nelson, M.D.

Adult heart transplantation:  Brett C. Sheridan, M.D.; Andy C. Kiser, M.D.; William E. Stansfield, M.D.

Lung transplantation:  Benjamin E. Haithcock, M.D.; Jason M. Long, M.D., M.P.H.

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Transplant Facilities

UNC Hospitals is a 724-bed university hospital, including adult medical/surgical, and women's and children's services. Facilities include:

  • Adult, pediatric and neonatal intensive care units
  • Specialized operating rooms for cardiothoracic surgery
  • Adult and pediatric nurses specially trained in the care of transplant patients
  • Dedicated pre-transplant physical therapy and rehabilitation program
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • State-of-the-art laboratories, including a tissue typing laboratory
  • Extensive post-transplant rehabilitation program
  • Outpatient services for endomyocardial and transbronchial biopsies
  • Complete cardiac catheterization laboratories
  • Weekly transplant and heart-failure clinics for patient evaluation and postoperative follow-up
  • Carolina Air Care, providing helicopter and fixed wing transport service
  • Affordable local accommodations through the Ronald McDonald House and the SECU Family House in Chapel Hill,  and area hotels and apartment complexes.

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Evaluation

After being referred to UNC Hospitals for evaluation, patients are seen by surgeons, cardiologists, pulmonary medicine specialists, psychiatrists, social workers, and other specialists as necessary. In most instances, patients undergo routine laboratory and x-ray studies, pulmonary function tests, radionucleotide ventriculography, and right heart catheterization. Initial evaluation is performed in an outpatient setting. This is usually followed by a 2-3 day scheduled admission to complete invasive procedures and complete more detailed investigations. In selected patients, evaluation may be performed entirely on an outpatient basis, depending on the needs of the individual patient. Patients' insurance coverage and financial status are reviewed with a dedicated admissions counselor, and every attempt is made to assure adequate assistance for each patient.

In some cases, medical, social and/or psychological evaluations provide evidence that a patient is not a good candidate for transplantation. These patients are referred to other specialists for appropriate ongoing treatment.

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Candidacy

Patients who become transplant candidates are listed with Carolina Donor Services, the local organ procurement agency, and the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the national organ procurement and transplant network. Transplant candidates receive radio pagers so they can be easily contacted by the UNC Transplant Coordinator, who makes all necessary arrangements for the patient's admission at the time of transplantation. Patients will be followed on an ongoing basis in the pre-transplant clinic. This care is coordinated with the referring physician to assure that the patient remains in appropriate condition for transplantation, and so that intervening illnesses and complications can be handled in a timely fashion to avoid jeopardizing the patient's transplant status. For those patients who relocate to Chapel Hill for rehabilitation prior to transplantation, full medical services can be arranged for the candidates with close communication with the referring physician.

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Transplantation and Follow-Up

Generally, patients undergoing heart and/or lung transplantation remain hospitalized for two to three weeks post-operatively. Patients remain in the intensive care unit for several days and then move to a special transplant unit. In the early post-transplant period, follow up is coordinated by the Thoracic Transplant Clinic. Patients undergo serial endomyocardial and/or transbronchial biopsies to monitor for rejection. They also engage in extensive rehabilitation during this time. The transplant team works closely with referring physicians, according to referring physicians' discretion. Referring physicians maintain primary patient care and are informed when any major decisions are made in the transplant process. Evaluations are reported regularly through letters, telephone calls and transfer of records. Much of the late post-transplant follow up is handled by the referring physician. The transplant team remains involved with the care of patients and is always available for consultation should the need arise.

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