Allegheny General Hospital Heart Transplantation Program Surges in 2010

Surgeons at Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) performed thirty one heart transplants in 2010, the highest number by far in the program’s twenty three year history and an accomplishment that once again places AGH among the top adult heart transplantation centers in the country. 

According to Srinivas Murali, MD, Medical Director of AGH’s Gerald McGinnis Cardiovascular Institute, even more gratifying than the hospital’s transplant volume is the superior quality of care being provided to patients in the AGH program.

One year patient survival after heart transplantation at AGH over the past two years is approximately 95%. The national average among transplant centers in 2007, the last year for which such data is available, was 89%.

“Our sole mission is to provide an unsurpassed level of clinically advanced, personalized care that affords heart failure patients their best chance of getting better and resuming a normal life. We are deeply honored by those who entrust us with their care and thrilled by how far we have come in meeting the high expectations and standards we have established for this program,” Dr. Murali said.

Dr. Murali said AGH’s pre and post transplantation care regimen is a unique amalgamation of best practices established at some of the nation’s top transplant centers, where many on his team were recruited from.

“There is a very, very low risk of death among patients on the heart transplant waiting list at AGH and our post-transplantation outcomes are equally strong,” he said.

In the five state region that includes Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, AGH was the fourth busiest among 13 active heart transplant centers in 2010.

With just four heart transplants performed in 2005, the resurgence of AGH’s program since then has been remarkable, said George Magovern, MD, Chair of the hospital’s Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.

The hospital’s 182% increase in transplant volume in 2010 from 2009 and more than 650% increase since 2005 is particularly impressive considering the volume of organ transplants nationally has remained static.

“The tremendous growth and success of this program over the past five years exemplifies our organization’s commitment to developing high quality, quaternary services and recruiting the highest caliber of medical professionals to lead them. Our vision is for AGH to earn and maintain a formidable share of the heart transplant market in the western Pennsylvania region and we have made fast progress towards achieving that,” Dr. Magovern said.

Several pivotal recruitments to the AGH program since 2005 include Raymond Benza, MD, a leading heart failure and pulmonary hypertension specialist from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, Stephen Bailey, MD, a heart transplant surgeon from New York Presbyterian, Columbia University Medical Center, George Sokos, DO, a heart failure cardiologist from the Cleveland Clinic and Robert Moraca, MD, a heart transplant surgeon from Barnes Jewish Hospital.

Dr. Benza now serves as Medical Director of the Advanced Heart Failure, Transplantation, Mechanical Circulatory Support and Pulmonary Hypertension Program at AGH. Dr. Bailey is Director of the hospital’s Division of Cardiac Surgery and Surgical Director of the Heart Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support program.

“Heart failure is an extremely complicated disease that requires sophisticated, multi-disciplinary diagnostic and treatment capabilities to be managed effectively. At AGH, we have an extraordinary group of talented and dedicated healthcare professionals from a wide array of cardiovascular specialties who collaborate closely to provide end stage heart disease patients with a complete spectrum of advanced medical and surgical options,” Dr. Benza said.

“Our team approach allows us to offer the best solution to each patient with heart failure, whether it is advanced medical therapy, heart transplantation, mechanical circulatory support or complex coronary or valve surgery,” said Dr. Bailey.

AGH’s re-emergence as a prominent heart transplant center has also been fueled by the hospital’s nationally recognized leadership in the use of advanced technology – such as left ventricular support devices (LVADs) – to keep patients alive and healthy while waiting for a donor heart.

“Being on the cutting edge of LVAD technology and other therapeutic innovations is clearly what distinguishes medical centers like Allegheny General from most heart programs in the region and throughout the nation. Patients with heart failure can be assured that they will have access to the latest and best resources for the treatment of this disease,” Dr. Bailey said.

An added benefit of AGH’s program is the unique access it affords heart failure patients to state-of-the-art therapies being explored only in clinical research studies, Dr. Benza said.

AGH’s Gerald McGinnis Cardiovascular Institute opened in 2005 and offers patients one-stop access to the full range of specialists and programs dedicated to the treatment of cardiovascular disease. Later this year,, the hospital will open the city’s first dedicated multi-disciplinary inpatient unit for patients with advanced heart failure, mechanical circulatory support and pulmonary hypertension, a condition that often leads to heart failure.

Drs. Murali and his AGH colleagues believe this new inpatient unit will further distinguish the hospital locally and on a national level as a center of excellence for the treatment of complex cardiovascular diseases and end stage heart failure patients in particular.

Heart failure, a condition in which the heart becomes weakened and cannot pump blood adequately throughout the body, affects roughly six million Americans and kills more than 300,000 annually. It is the leading reason for hospitalization among people over the age of 65. Approximately 2,200 heart transplants are performed each year in the United States.