General Question

XOIIO's avatar

So, how does a transplanted heart beat?

Asked by XOIIO (16726 points ) 1 month ago

Pretty simple, but I was wondering, since doctors can’t exactly reconnect nerves, when a heart is transplanted, how does it begin beating again? Does every heart transplant patient have a pacemaker to run their heart?

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7 Answers

thorninmud's avatar

The heart has its own pacemaker that acts independently of the rest of the nervous system. So the transplanted heart brings its own pacemaker along.

zenvelo's avatar

“lub-dub”

When it’s hooked up it gets a bit of an electric jolt to get started again.

gondwanalon's avatar

Once the transplanted heart is beating it will still need to be regulated to meet the bodiy’s varying needs throughout the day. For instance when the body is working the heart will need to be faster and while at rest the heart will need to beat slowly. Therefore an artificial pacemaker would be of great help.

gasman's avatar

Normally your heart has “pacemaker cells” with their own intrinsic rhythm to set the rate, by a process called spontaneous depolarization. The timing derives from steady leakage of ions across certain cell membranes by protein gates or channels embedded in the membrane. These cells are organized into a conducting system to maintain a normal sequence of events during each heartbeat. All of this pertains just as well to a transplanted heart whose control from “above” (i.e., brain & spinal cord) is via autonomic nerves, which get cut during transplantation.

The transplanted heart would still respond to hormones in blood, such as adrenalin.

From a Cleveland Clinic article on heart transplant:
Does the heart beat the same once the heart transplant takes place?
The donor heart comes with its own pacemaker and its own coronary artery supply. However, when the heart is removed from the body, the nervous system is disconnected. The heart continues to beat adequately, but without the external nerve supply. This is referred to as a denervated heart. In a small amount of cases, a pacemaker is needed after surgery to help the heart rate.

XOIIO's avatar

@gasman Huh, interesting.

JLeslie's avatar

That moment when they jolt the new heart and hope it is going to beat on its own is one of the tenses moments probably in the operating room. It is fascinating that the organ has it’s own ability to beat without the nerves connect. @gasman gave a great answer.

Unrelated, but related, I recently was listening to someone who is invloved with a lot of the research being done in spine injury and paralysis and they are realizing now that the spine almost has it’s own “brain.” There are studies going on where the spine is stimulated below the injury and the muscles are responding where the patient actually has some control to move a muscle on demand. The research is still in its infancy in my opinion, but the researcher I listened to said what they had always previously believed seems not to be true. It was fasinating to listen to her. I found this article to share with you.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Heart menu> Restart.

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