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New record for pediatric heart transplant program

Mar. 24, 2021, 3:10 PM


by Jessica Pasley

The heart transplant program at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt experienced back-to-back record years for the number of heart transplants performed.

In 2019 the program performed 22 heart transplants and hit another record of 23 in 2020.

The milestones placed the program among the top four largest pediatric heart transplant programs in the United States.

“We have become one of the busier transplant centers in the country,” said Debra Dodd, MD, professor of Pediatrics and medical director of the Pediatric Heart Transplant Program at Children’s Hospital. “And this is true also for the adult heart transplant program. Together, we were the biggest combined center in the world in 2020.

“We were surprised to see the numbers, because the biggest year prior to 2019 saw a total of 16. The fact that we had such high volumes back to back shows that we have really established ourselves as a premier program.”

Dodd applauds the team within the transplant group as well as the interventional cath lab professionals who have been critical in shepherding some of the more complex congenital heart defect patients to transplant and optimizing the function of their new heart post transplantation.

“It is truly a team effort that includes cardiologists, surgeons, nurses, nurse practitioners, infectious disease specialists, pharmacists, anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists and a multitude of others,” said Dodd. “We are all responsible and play a key role in the growth of our program and the better-than-expected survival outcomes.”

Dodd said the program has taken on a higher-risk patient population with more complex conditions and is still maintaining excellent outcomes.

“Our percentage of infants transplanted is higher than most centers, and last year we placed ventricular assist devices in six patients, five of which were one year old or younger,” said Dodd. “Mechanical support in this age group is more complex, and we have been able to stabilize our sicker patients long enough to get them a new heart.”

Dodd anticipates continued growth as the population in the city and surrounding areas continues to expand.

While the hospital’s first pediatric heart transplant was performed in 1987, the program was officially created in 1989 and was one of the earliest pediatric heart transplant programs in the country.

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