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Strong Memorial performs 50th heart transplant

Friday, September 17, 2004

The Strong Health Program in Heart Failure and Transplantation reached a milestone this week, performing its 50th heart transplant surgery on Tuesday.

The patient, a man from Oswego County, is doing well in the cardiac intensive care unit, and could be moved to the heart failure and transplant unit early next week. He is one of the many patients who have benefited over the past three years from having a heart failure and transplant program close to home.

“Our reason for creating a program in Rochester was to fill a void in upstate New York,” says Leway Chen, M.D., M.P.H., director of the program and a transplant cardiologist. “For patients living with heart failure and in need of a transplant, we have made it possible for them to stay near their support network – their family, their own physician – and get the leading-edge care they require.”

Chen leads the transplant team with H. Todd Massey, M.D., surgical director of the program and a transplant surgeon.

“Many patients in need of a transplant cannot just pick up their life and move indefinitely to another city or state, and many choose not to,” Massey says. “We want to give them the opportunity to survive here in upstate New York.”

The transplant team listed its first patient in January 2001 and performed its first transplant 12 days later, on Feb. 7, 2001. Since then, patients from across upstate New York and northern Pennsylvania have received care, including not only heart transplants, but also state-of-the-art medical therapy, heart failure surgery, and ventricular assist devices, which are implanted pumps that replace a patient’s heart function to keep them alive and as healthy as possible while they wait for a new heart.

The program’s one-year survival rate is 92 percent, one of the best in the nation. Graft survival rate is 100 percent. Currently there are 37 patients awaiting transplant.

The transplant team has grown over the past year with two additional transplant cardiologists, Jeffrey Alexis, M.D., and Hamang Patel, M.D., who join transplant cardiologist John Bisognano, M.D., Ph.D., and the other members of the team. The program also added the life-saving service of a unique Cardiac Critical Care Transport Team, composed of cardiac critical care nurses, respiratory therapists, perfusionists and physicians. The team uses a vehicle equipped with cutting-edge technology to assist patients being rushed from outlying areas to Strong Memorial for the region’s most comprehensive cardiac care.

Ventricular assist devices have become a significant component of the heart failure and transplant program. Massey serves as director of the hospital's ventricular assist device program, an initiative that has resulted in 70 patients receiving ventricular assist devices. The transplant team utilizes a number of surgically implanted mechanical pump devices, including the Thoratec PVAD, the Abiomed BVS 5000 Thoratec IVAD, and the Heartmate XVE LVAD. During his career, Massey has implanted more than 100 devices in patients with end-stage heart failure.

Massey and the transplant team are involved in research of the newest models of ventricular assist devices, including the HeartMate II, which was implanted for the first time in Rochester in August. Strong is one of only 10 centers in the United States and Europe approved to participate in the international clinical trial testing the newly designed left ventricular assist device, which is thought to be longer-lasting and considerably lighter – about 1 pound compared to the nearly 5-pound HeartMate XVE – and smaller in size, making it possible to implant the HeartMate II in smaller patients, particularly women whose bodies cannot accommodate the larger model.

The Strong Health Program in Heart Failure and Transplantation is the region’s only comprehensive heart failure service. It also is a national leader in research efforts to further the treatment of heart failure and return patients that suffer from heart failure to healthy and productive lives.

Media Contact

Karin Christensen

(585) 275-1311

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