Our heart and lung transplantation unit, based at Harefield Hospital, is the UK’s largest and most experienced centre for heart and lung transplants. The unit works with the Heart Science Centre, which is at the forefront of research into heart disease and transplantation. 

Our expertise

  • Non-heart beating donor lung transplantation
  • Experience in performing heterotopic heart transplantation
  • Experience in live-lobar lung transplantation
  • Experience of combined heart-kidney transplantation
  • Use of mass spectrometry technology for monitoring immunosuppressant drug levels
  • Application of plasmapherisis to treat acute antibody mediated rejection in heart and lung transplantation
  • Short- and long-term mechanical circulatory support with ventricular assist devices (VADs)
  • Application of LVADs to support recovery of the patient’s heart following dilated cardiomyopathy

Our work

We have performed almost 3,000 transplant operations since Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub carried out the first heart transplant at Harefield in 1980. He also performed the world's first double heart and lung transplant in 1983.

Harefield Hospital has the best long-term survival rates in the UK for patients who have had a heart or lung transplant.

Artificial hearts

Harefield hospital has the UK's largest ventricular assist device (VAD or 'artificial heart') service. Many patients receive VADs while they wait for a transplant and we have the largest population of patients 'bridged' to transplant with an artificial heart in the UK.

Between May 2002 and March 2010, our surgeons implanted 110 LVADs (VADs for the left ventricle), and in 2011/12 they performed a further 22 implants, 27 in 2012/13 and 29 in 2013/14. 

In addition, we are pioneers in the emerging field of recovery of heart function. Our patients show the highest rate of myocardial recovery (where the heart regains strength while the VAD is assisting it) in the world. This has led to the United States using the recovery protocols developed at Harefield to aim for similar results.

Harefield is also currently at the forefront of work on VADs as an alternative to transplantation and is leading work on establishing the UK's first programme of this kind.

We run a dedicated transplant follow-up clinic – our focus is on enabling patients to live the most normal and active life possible.

Our facilities

Our dedicated transplant unit consists of two wards, with a total of 34 beds, most of which are in single or double rooms. Patients are admitted for transplant assessment, routine check-ups and unplanned admissions in the event of post-transplant complications (such as infection or organ rejection).  We run a dedicated transplant follow-up clinic – our focus is on enabling patients to live the most normal and active life possible.

Transplant services at Harefield Hospital are supported by our specialist immunosuppression monitoring services, which includes the UK National Monitoring Service for Sirolimus.

Growing lung transplant service

Harefield Hospital's lung transplant service is now the largest in the UK.

Improved methods of handling donor lungs such as ex-vivo organ perfusion (where surgeons can re-condition donor lungs by pumping a bloodless solution containing nutrients, steroids and antibiotics through them inside a protected chamber, outside the body), and the use of non-heart-beating donors, has helped to increase lung transplant activity since 2008. 

The Trust now has the most active lung transplantation programme in the UK, providing approximately one third of the UK's lung transplants during 2010/11. 

Minimally invasive lung transplant surgery

In October 2010, Harefield Hospital was the first transplant centre in the UK to perform pioneering, minimally invasive lung transplant surgery. This type of surgery dramatically improves recovery times and long-term wellbeing. 

The minimally invasive method differs from established methods because it does not require surgeons to cut through the sternum to open the entire chest. Instead, organs are replaced individually via small incisions in the side of the ribcage. The benefits to patients include fewer wound complications and less bleeding, pain and scarring. 

'Live life then give life'

At the age of 21, Harefield Hospital patient Emily Thackray had to wait over 18 months for a double lung transplant. With less than a year to live, she focused on raising awareness to save other people with great success. In 2008 Emily registered her campaign, 'Live Life Give Life', as a charity. In 2009, it was voted Best New Charity of the Year in the Charity Times Awards. In 2014, Emily tragically passed away. She leaves behind a tremendous legacy of all that she had done to raise awareness of organ donation, and the hope, will and courage to fight on she inspired in many. 

Video produced by malt films

If you are a health professional who wants to find out more about transplant referrals, find out more