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Heart transplant program among busiest in U.S.

Aug. 4, 2016, 9:14 AM

Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s heart transplant program is ranked No. 2 nationwide in volume for its combined adult and pediatric procedures, according to the most recent data released by Organ Procurement and Transplant Network (OPTN) in July.

The ranking puts the program at No. 1 in the Southeast region for volume for the first six months of 2016. It is the second consecutive year the program garnered the top spot in the region on the rankings list.

In 2015, the program performed a record number of heart transplants — 65 — which ranked the Medical Center at No. 3 nationally for the combined adult and pediatric programs.

“Our goal was never about volume,” said Ashish Shah, M.D., professor of Cardiac Surgery and surgical director of the adult heart transplant program at Vanderbilt. “It has always been about delivering the highest quality of care. That has allowed us to think even more aggressively about more complicated cases so that we provide a therapy we all believe in and, most importantly, allows for improved quality of life and longevity.”

Shah said the accomplishment speaks to institutional commitment to the heart transplant program at Vanderbilt coupled with the history of attracting top providers in the field who deliver high quality care.

“We talk a lot about being the epicenter for cardiovascular disease and heart failure,” Shah said. “Our volumes also speak to the need in this area, and we have the personnel and infrastructure to meet the demand.”

Between Jan. 1 and June 30, Vanderbilt performed 45 transplants in the combined adult/pediatric program. Mark Wigger, M.D., assistant professor of Medicine and medical director of the adult heart transplant program, said the heart transplant team works hard to provide the best outcomes for patients.

“We really put our lives into our work. The team and program encompasses a multitude of advanced staff support to ensure our patients are getting the absolute best care possible. The medical support teams are well versed in advanced cardiac care that will lead to better quality of life post-transplantation,” Wigger said.

“We offer heart transplant therapy for some very complex patients who literally are not offered the opportunity for transplant at other centers because they are too high-risk,” he said. “We are a large program, which allows us to stretch our wings a bit further.”

Wigger praised the program’s team, which includes attending physicians, the operating room, intensive care unit heart failure teams, 7 North, Cath Lab, inpatient and outpatient clinic and staff as well as the specialty care provided by transplant pharmacy, transplant psychiatry and transplant infectious disease.

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