Heart biopsies (post-transplant)

Learn more about this specialized test for heart transplant recipients


Currently, the most reliable way of detecting early rejection of a transplanted heart is with heart biopsies. This is a safe test. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes to do.

Your post-transplant care team will arrange regular heart biopsies for you in the first year post transplant. It is as frequent as weekly in the first several weeks after transplant, but would gradually lessen as time goes on. After the first year, generally you do not need heart biopsies anymore.

Heart biopsies are also done after treatment of a rejection episode. This is so we can make sure the rejection has been resolved.

Preparing for the test

When you get to St. Paul's Hospital, go directly to the Radiology Department to check in for your biopsy. Radiology is down the hall from the Laboratory.

You will have blood work drawn during your procedure. After the biopsy, please go to the Transplant Clinic area on the 5th floor of the Providence Building and check in at Reception.

Note: You may eat and drink before your biopsy.

During the test

  • The doctor injects freezing (local anaesthetic) around where the biopsy goes through your skin. You’ll be awake during the procedure.
  • The doctor threads a thin flexible tube through a vein and into your heart. You might feel some pressure as the tube is inserted.
  • Through the tube, the doctor inserts a small tool that can take tiny pieces of heart tissue. You might feel a gentle tugging in your chest as these tiny pieces are taken.
  • The pieces taken from your heart are so small the heart is not affected during or after your biopsy. However, it is possible the biopsy could cause some bleeding or bruising.

After the test

  • After a heart biopsy, if you notice any pain in the chest, shortness of breath, or heart palpitations, report it to the transplant team immediately.
  • Don’t lift anything heavy or do strenuous activities for 24 hours after the procedure. You should be able to return to work and daily activities the next day.
  • The clinic nurse will tell you the results of your biopsy the following day.

Support for Indigenous Peoples

The Indigenous Wellness Liaison Team is here to support your health journey. Team members offer cultural support and healthcare advocacy. Learn more below or call them at 604-682-2344,62937 or email IWL@providencehealth.bc.ca.

  • Indigenous wellness services

    The Indigenous Wellness Team at Providence is available to support Indigenous patients and their families. We are here to coordinate culturally safe wellness supports and services.