Conditions + Treatments

Heart transplant tests & diagnostics in children

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Contact the Heart Transplant Program

If it seems like a heart transplant might be an option for your child, we’ll ask you to come to the hospital for an informational visit. Your family will meet our pediatric heart transplant team, and you’ll be invited to ask questions and share any concerns you may have. We encourage you to bring family and close friends to this meeting.

If you and the transplant team agree that a heart transplant may benefit your child, your child will be scheduled for an evaluation. This is an extensive array of tests that are usually conducted over the course of four to five days. While this may seem like a lot, these tests are necessary in order for us to:

  • confirm that a transplant is the appropriate treatment
  • determine how urgent the need for a transplant is
  • make sure that the donor organ your child receives will be a good match

The evaluation may be done as an outpatient or as inpatient based on the urgency for transplant. 

Who will we meet with during the transplant evaluation?

A transplant is a complex procedure that touches different medical specialties – that’s why you and your child will meet Boston Children’s Hospital experts from a number of different areas, including:

  • Cardiac transplant surgery: These are the doctors who specialize in heart transplant surgery and will perform the transplant.
  • Transplant cardiology: The transplant cardiologist is a physician who specializes in the treatment of heart failure, medical evaluation for transplant and in taking care of patients long-term after the transplant.
  • Transplant nurse coordinator: This is a nurse who specializes in caring for heart transplant patients and will organize all aspects of your child’s care before and after the transplant 
  • Pulmonology: The pulmonologist (lung doctor) will assess your child’s lung function.
  • Anesthesia: The anesthesiologist will review your child's medical and/or surgical histories and identify any risk factors associated with anesthesia.
  • Infectious disease: Our infectious disease specialist will perform a physical exam and review your child's vaccination records. We will want to know if your child has any particular environmental exposures or has recently traveled to a foreign country. 
  • Psychiatry: A psychiatrist or psychologist will meet with you and your child to discuss coping strategies, stress management and family life.
  • Social services: The transplant social worker will meet with you and your family to identify support systems and discuss your feelings about transplant. We can provide you with information about resources related to finances, relocation expenses and support groups.
  • Nutrition: Our registered dietician will evaluate your child's diet and nutritional requirements. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and good nutrition before the transplant is very important.
  • Physical therapy: The physical therapist will discuss the importance of exercising before transplant in a way that is appropriate for your child. The goal of developing an exercise plan is to help increase endurance and strength.
  • Dentist: Before a transplant can be considered, your child will meet with her own dentist or one here at the hospital. The goal is to treat any cavities, infections or tooth abscesses before transplant, since these conditions can be problematic once your child begins to take medicine to suppress his immune system.

What tests are used during the evaluation?

Your child’s specialists will order different tests to understand his past exposure to infections, determine functionality of organs and make sure a donor match is compatible. These types of tests may include:

Blood:

  • blood type (a donor and recipient must have compatible blood)

Heart:

Infections:

Other kinds of tests:

  • pulmonary (lung) function tests
  • liver and kidney function tests
  • urine tests

After these consultations and tests, our transplant team will meet as a group to determine whether your child is a good candidate for a heart transplant. Our multidisciplinary approach to care ensures that your child’s case will be given thoughtful discussion of every treatment possibility.

If your child is a transplant candidate, we’ll make sure your family is fully educated about the risks and benefits, and your child will be placed on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) list.

We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115 617-355-6000 | 800-355-7944

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