Doctors and staff at UChicago Medicine got new heart transplant patients faster than any other hospital in the United States


HYDE PARK – When Al Brown contracted COVID-19 in 2020, he was taken to the University of Chicago hospital and needed supplemental oxygen to recover. Weeks later, he was back in hospital with a more serious diagnosis: heart failure caused by the coronavirus.

For people like Brown, 31, it can normally take months to receive a heart transplant. But he was only on the waiting list 12 days before getting one of the first coronavirus-related transplants in the country from UCicago doctors in October 2020.

Heart transplant patients at UChicago Medicine received hearts faster than they would have in any other transplant program in the United States, and all survived at least a year after surgery, data shows national.

Half of UCicago Medicine’s heart transplant patients underwent surgery within 1.1 months of being on the waiting list, based on data from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients on procedures. October 2020 to April 30.

That’s almost six months faster than the national median of 6.9 months.

Three in four patients received new hearts in 2.8 months, almost 10 months faster than the country’s fastest program.

“We are by far the fastest to transplant,” said Valluvan Jeevanandam, director of the heart and vascular center. “This is largely due to the fact that we have very advanced transplant surgeons.”

In addition, all patients lived at least a year after their surgery. That’s because the more than 65 professionals on the heart transplant team “find rough diamonds” by spending hours identifying usable donor hearts that other hospitals may reject, Jeevanandam said.

“We used to say that we take coins that other people don’t use, but we don’t want to make it look like they’re bad hearts,” he said. “Obviously, when you have 100% survival [after one year], these hearts actually work.

The survival rate also depends on continued care after surgery, which requires “smart and motivated staff who work well together,” said Catherine Murks, nurse practitioner in the post-heart transplant section of the hospital.

“We are often their first call for every hiccup that occurs when they are in the real world facing life after a transplant,” said JoDell Powers, a post-transplant nurse practitioner.

Credit: Maxwell Evans / Block Club Chicago
Nurse practitioners Caroline Murks (left) and JoDell Powers are celebrated at Thursday’s ceremony.

Forty-two percent of UCicago heart transplant patients were black, the highest proportion of black patients among the programs in the report.

This is not strictly a function of the hospital’s placement in the predominantly black side of the south, as up to 30% of its patients come from across the country and around the world, Jeevanandam said.

“We are able to provide care to our community which is located here in South Chicago, and we are able to provide the same level of care to international patients and domestic patients… who seek the University of Chicago. “said Sean Pinney, director of advanced heart failure and transplantation.

Staff serve communities that suffer from “double standards in healthcare exposed by coronavirus” and are “a beacon for all healthcare facilities around the world,” said Representative Bobby Rush, a Democrat representing the region .

“Everyone who is born has the right to the best health care we can provide, regardless of race, creed or color,” he said.

Rush was moved at the start of his speech as he recounted his wife Carolyn’s care at UChicago Medicine after she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Cardiovascular doctors at the hospital gave Carolyn “an extra seven years” of life through their hard work, Rush said.

Rush praised the professionals at UChicago Medicine for their commitment and talent in achieving the high national rating, but their success goes beyond the data, he said.

“It all comes down to personal relationships, interactions, hardships and challenges, good times and bad,” Rush said.

Data from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients inform decisions by federal agencies about transplants, including the United States Department of Health and Human Services and the Health Resources and Services Administration.

The registry evaluated 143 heart transplant programs nationwide in its most recent report. UChicago Medicine was one of 14 to receive the highest rating.

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