2,000 transplants and counting: UCLA's heart transplant program reaches major milestone
June 27, 2012
6 min read
|Bill Meadows, recipient of milestone transplant|
Bill Meadows, 59, of Riverside, Calif., who suffered from advanced dilated cardiomyopathy with secondary pulmonary hypertension, received the donated organ on June 4 in a four-hour surgery at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center led by Dr. Reshma Biniwale, an assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery.
"It is extraordinary that 2,000 donor hearts have been transplanted at UCLA, giving new life and new hope to pediatric and adult patients ranging in age from two weeks to 77 years," said Dr. Abbas Ardehali, professor of cardiothoracic surgery and director of the heart and lung transplant program at UCLA. "Not only is this historic occasion a time for celebration, it is also an opportunity to thank those thousands of organ donors and their loved ones who gave the precious gift of life."
Founded in 1984, UCLA's heart transplant program has been a world leader in the field and was recognized in 2010 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources as the nation's best heart transplant program.
Today, the program prides itself on superior outcomes, low mortality on the wait-list, and the use of innovative and cutting-edge approaches in the fields of heart failure and transplantation. Patients come to UCLA for heart transplants from all parts of California and neighboring states, including Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and even Hawaii.
UCLA's team has pioneered research leading to novel anti-rejection medications and strategies, including the use of lipid-lowering statins, that have resulted in better rejection outcomes for all heart transplant recipients. The program continues to reduce post-transplant complications, and its incidence of donor heart rejection is the lowest in the country, with only 5 percent of patients experiencing biopsy-proven rejection.
"We are incredibly pleased to offer our heart transplant patients a concept of care that integrates cutting-edge science with humanism and takes the patient's perspective seriously," said Dr. Mario Deng, professor of medicine and medical director of the integrated UCLA advanced heart failure, mechanical support and heart transplant program. "For example, we spearheaded the development and implementation of the first genomic heart transplant rejection-monitoring blood test cleared by the Food and Drug Administration, called Allomap. This simple blood test allows us to monitor rejection in our stable heart-transplant patients and safely personalize immunosuppression drugs to reduce side effects, while reducing painful, invasive heart-muscle biopsies.
"This approach underscores our reputation as a leading international heart transplant center, not only with respect to superb survival outcomes but also excellent patient satisfaction."
Among the notable achievements of UCLA's heart transplant program:
The program is founded by Dr. Hillel Laks, professor of cardiothoracic surgery and a distinguished UCLA Chancellor's Professor.
UCLA pioneers the country's first alternative heart-transplant program; Dr. Hillel Laks is the first U.S. cardiac surgeon to perform bypass surgery on a donor heart prior to transplantation.
UCLA publishes a landmark study in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrating that lipid-lowering statins lead to better rejection outcomes and survival in heart transplant recipients.
UCLA surgeons implant the AbioCor total artificial heart, only the fourth time the procedure is performed in the United States.
UCLA participates in the initial feasibility study of continuous reperfusion of a donor heart prior to transplantation.
UCLA leads a multi-center phase 2 clinical study of an experimental organ-preservation system that allows donor hearts to continue functioning in a near-physiologic, "beating" state outside the body during transport.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources recognizes UCLA's heart transplant program as the nation's best.
UCLA initiates the Heal-My-Heart program, providing heart failure patients and their primary doctors with continuous evidence-based treatment choices.
The UCLA heart transplant team includes specialists in cardiothoracic surgery, mechanical cardiac assist devices, anesthesia, cardiology, pulmonary medicine, nephrology, psychiatry, immunology, infectious diseases, transplant nursing, medical ethics, palliative care, social work, physical therapy and organ procurement.
Heart transplantation was introduced as a clinical procedure just more than 40 years ago. Since then, the number of heart transplants performed yearly in the United States has increased to an annual rate of well over 2,000. The procedure is now widely recognized as an effective therapeutic option for the treatment of end-stage heart disease.
Yet while heart transplants save lives, there are not enough organ donors to help every patient on the waiting list, UCLA doctors say. Currently, there are more than 4,000 people nationwide, including children, waiting for a new heart.
"We have achieved 2,000 heart transplant surgeries for kids and adults, but we are still counting," said Dr. Juan Alejos, medical director of the pediatric heart transplant program at UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital. "We urge everyone to discuss organ donation with their family and register to become a donor. Organ donation truly saves lives."
To learn more about becoming an organ donor, please visit Donate Life California.
UCLA has the largest solid-organ transplant center in the county and recently established the UCLA Section of Reconstructive Transplantation, a first-of-its-kind program to restore functionality and enhance quality of life for people who have suffered severe trauma or other disfiguring injuries to the upper extremities, face or abdomen.
To learn more about all of UCLA's transplant programs, visit www.transplants.ucla.edu.
The UCLA Health, which comprises hospitals within UCLA Heath System and the UCLA Medical Group and its affiliates, has provided the best in health care and the most advanced treatment options to the people of Los Angeles and the world for more than half a century. UCLA's preeminence in health care — a strength that comes from the union of research, teaching and excellence in patient care — continues to be recognized nationally, internationally and in numerous forums. The clinical programs of Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, UCLA Medical Center–Santa Monica, the Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA, and UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital have produced a system of hospital care that is unparalleled in California. Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center is consistently ranked one of the top five hospitals in the nation and the best in the western United States by U.S. News & World Report. The UCLA Medical Group has been awarded Gold Level Achievement for clinical quality by the California Department of Managed Health Care and has been recognized by both the California Association of Physician Groups and the National Committee for Quality Assurance for its outstanding patient-centered care and medical care management. UCLA physicians and hospitals will continue to be world leaders in the full range of care, from maintaining the health of families to the diagnosis and treatment of complex illnesses.