While the COVID-19 pandemic forced some transplant centers to slow or even shut down temporarily, Stanford Medicine's Heart Transplant Program continued apace. In 2020, Stanford Health Care performed 86 heart transplants, the most ever in a year.
"We transplanted more patients, we transplanted them faster, and we have been getting great outcomes," said Jeffrey Teuteberg, MD, section chief of heart failure, cardiac transplantation, and mechanical circulatory support at Stanford Health Care.
Among U.S. Leaders in Heart Transplant Volume and Outcomes
Stanford Health Care, which pioneered cardiac transplantation, was the fourth-largest transplant program in the country in 2020.
In recent years, our program has averaged about 65 transplants a year. In 2020, we were able to improve our volumes by partnering with cardiology groups in the Bay Area and beyond and increasing awareness of our shorter wait times and exceptional outcomes.
Based on the latest report from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR), our patients’ one-year heart transplant survival rate is 95%, compared with the national average of 91%.* We achieve this outstanding survival through our continued focus on quality improvement measures.
Teuteberg said, "We have improved how we select patients, manage them during surgery, and care for them after transplant."
Reducing Heart Transplant Wait Times by Accepting More Organs
At the same time, the Stanford Heart Transplant Program has reduced the time that transplant candidates must wait for a new heart. Shorter wait times reduce the number of deaths among wait-listed patients.
Stanford Health Care's reduced wait times in part reflect a new system initiated by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the nonprofit that manages the nation’s organ transplant system. Under a protocol introduced in October 2018, UNOS places patients into one of six categories, instead of one of three categories, based on the severity of their illness. That helps medical centers identify the most acutely ill patients in immediate need of a transplant and match available organs to them faster.
Providing New Hearts, Sometimes in As Little As a Week
The median wait time for a heart transplant at Stanford Health Care is significantly shorter than other transplant centers in the Bay Area and nationally. Last year, the average wait time was about three months, with some of the sickest patients receiving transplants in as little as a week.