Types of Heart Transplant Rejection - An online health& Fitness Blog to know more about health, fitness & food.

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Types of Heart Transplant Rejection

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

 


When you or a loved one gets diagnosed with a condition that requires a heart transplant, it's terrifying news. Even more terrifying, the transplant itself may not be successful. If you or someone you love recently received a heart transplant, you must be on the lookout for signs of transplant rejection.

Why Does This Happen?

If you needed a heart transplant to survive the different types of heart failure, you might wonder why in the world your body would reject such a necessary organ. Simply put: your immune system is too good at its job.

Confused? Let's break it down.

Your body's immune system, particularly its cytotoxic (or Killer T) cells, has one very important job. The job? Hunt down and exterminate all foreign intruders to your body with prejudice.

This is all well and good when your body is fighting off the flu or some other virus. It's not so great when your body registers the heart donated to keep you alive as an external threat.

Doctors do everything in their power to ensure the organ you received is as close a match as possible. However, the fact remains that this organ is not native to your body, and as such, your unmitigated immune system will recognize it as a threat. That's why preparation for a heart transplant often includes immune system blockers.

When Does This Happen?

When transplant rejection may occur depends on which type of rejection takes place. The highest risk for any transplant rejection occurs within the first few weeks after the surgery, but other types may present later.

Acute cellular rejection is by far the most common. It often occurs within 3-6 months after the initial procedure. What we described above, the immune system attacking the heart is central to acute cellular rejection.

Humoral rejection is less common and involves the antibodies in the bloodstream inflaming your blood vessels. The swelling caused by inflammation naturally restricts blood flow to the heart and the rest of the body. This can occur within a month after the transplant, or months down the line.

Chronic rejection occurs when the body's rejection of the new organ occurs over a long period of time, rather than all at once. It can take years to present itself.

Regardless of the type of transplant rejection, all patients are at risk. That's why maintaining an immunosuppressant regimen is crucial to keeping yourself alive after the transplant.

What Are the Symptoms of Transplant Rejection?

Now that we've discussed the why and timing, let's take a look at the symptoms of transplant rejection. These can vary, but most often include:

  • Chest pain, swelling, or tenderness
  • High blood pressure
  • Fatigue and flu-like symptoms
  • An elevated (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit) body temperature
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath

If you or a loved one have experienced these symptoms on a consistent basis, reach out to your physician as soon as possible. The sooner your medical team can determine if it's transplant rejection or not, the greater your chances for survival.

What You've Learned

You now know why transplant rejection occurs, and when it most often happens. You know what symptoms to watch for, and what you need to do when those symptoms occur. Heart transplant rejection is a terrifying concept, but with this knowledge, you have an idea of what to expect.

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