State OKs Cardiac Transplant Program at Strong

April 15, 1999

The New York State Department of Health today granted approval to Strong Memorial Hospital of the University of Rochester Medical Center for a cardiac transplant program that will serve Upstate New York and will complete the full continuum of cardiac care in the Finger Lakes Region.

"Having the ability to treat virtually any cardiac diagnosis locally will have a great impact on Rochester and surrounding areas," said Jay H. Stein, M.D., senior vice president and vice provost for Health Affairs at the University of Rochester and chief executive officer of the Medical Center. "We are pleased that the state supports us in this endeavor to provide access to a local, high-quality transplant program."

Bradford C. Berk, M.D., Ph.D., chief of cardiology at the University of Rochester Medical Center and director of the Center for Cardiovascular Research, a component of the Aab Institute of Biomedical Sciences, said: "The dedication of the Medical Center to transplant research and patient care, and its track record in other areas of transplant provide the infrastructure needed for a successful cardiac transplant program."

The new program will provide cardiac transplants for adults and children, and will complement the existing kidney, pancreas, small bowel, liver and bone marrow transplant programs. Cardiac transplants will be an integral part of a larger plan for the evaluation and treatment of patients with congestive heart failure.

The Medical Center has a successful history of transplant programs. Since renal transplants were begun in 1966, more than 950 have been performed. The bone marrow/stem cell program, started in 1989, has resulted in more than 900 transplants. During the four years that liver transplants have been performed, more than 150 patients have been cared for.

Established infectious disease, immunosuppression and organ procurement programs at the Medical Center will support the new cardiac transplant program, as they do the existing transplant programs.

The cardiac transplant team currently consists of three thoracic surgeons: Drs. Richard Feins, David Johnstone and Thomas Watson; and four cardiac surgeons: Drs. George Hicks, William Risher, John Snider and Lucian Durham. The pediatric team consists of Durham and Drs. Steven Lipshultz, Alan Mendelsohn and Roger Vermilion.

A senior transplant cardiologist will be hired this year and current staff will receive additional training before the first transplant will be performed in Rochester. The first procedure could be done in early 2000.

According to George L. Hicks, M.D., chief of cardiothoracic surgery, the volume of cardiac patients is estimated to be 13 during the first year, three of which will be pediatric cases. Twenty cases are expected to be performed during the second year, while the program’s third year could see 30 transplants, four of which will be pediatric patients.

The one-year survival rate for cardiac transplantation has increased from 22 percent in 1968, to 85 percent to 90 percent in 1998. Five-year survival rates have increased from 18 percent in 1973 to 60 percent in 1998.

Due to increased need in the downstate region, the state Department of Health also recommended Thursday that Albany Medical Center develop its own cardiac transplant program for adult patients.

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Karin Christensen
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