Heart transplantation has now achieved a therapeutic status similar to that of cadaveric renal transplantation. Depending on patient selection criteria, it is estimated that as many as 15,000 people per year could conceivably benefit from a heart transplant, but the actual number of persons who will benefit is severely constrained by donor supply. Availability of heart donors was estimated based on data obtained on 1,955 organ donors in the United States. The results show that because of age and other contraindications, only 400 to 1,100 viable donor hearts may be available each year. Donor supply is the most critical determinant of the future of heart transplantation since it will dictate the number of transplants performed, the survival of transplant recipients, the total program expenditures associated with heart transplantation, the nature of the legal and ethical issues involved, the number of cardiac transplant programs required to make optimal use of the available donor hearts, and the future role of mechanical circulatory support systems.