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AGH Heart Transplant Program’s 3-year Survival Rates Tops in State, Seventh Nationally, According to Latest Report

Monday, April 15, 2019

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Allegheny General Hospital (AGH), a part of Allegheny Health Network (AHN), has the best three-year survival rates among adult heart transplant programs in Pennsylvania – and the seventh-best three-year survival rates for all adult heart transplant centers in the United States – according to the latest data from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR).  AGH is one of more than 100 adult heart transplant programs across the country, including seven in Pennsylvania.

The SRTR is a national database of organ transplantation statistics and serves as the repository of information used to analyze transplantation trends and patient outcomes in the U.S. AGH performed 44 heart transplants during the most recent three-year measuring period by the SRTR, with patients having a 93.18 percent three-year survival rate. Nationally, the three-year survival rate for that period was 85.22 percent. 

“As a program that treats very complex cases, we take great pride in these outcomes for our patients,” said Stephen Bailey, MD, Director, Division of Cardiac Surgery and Surgical Director, Cardiac Transplantation/VAD Program at AGH. “It takes a multidisciplinary team of caregivers, including physicians, nurses, transplant coordinators, dietitians, social workers, pharmacists, and a host of others to ensure high-quality, comprehensive care at every stage of a heart transplant patient’s journey.”

U.S. hospitals that also finished in the top 10 for three-year heart transplant outcomes in the latest SRTR database include: Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C.; Tufts Medical Center in Boston; University of Mississippi Medical Center; University of Maryland Medical System; Keck Hospital of USC in Los Angeles; Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix; Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Mich.; Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City; and Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Conn. 

Raymond L. Benza, MD, Medical Director for Advanced Heart Failure, Transplantation, Mechanical Circulatory Support, and Pulmonary Hypertension for the AHN Cardiovascular Institute, said the post-transplant patient survival rate results from a myriad of factors.

“Care for the patient before transplant is vital to making sure the patient is best positioned to do well after surgery,” explained Dr. Benza. “For patients suffering from advanced heart failure, it means making sure the patient is receiving the right medications and has a plan tailored to provide the appropriate care. That could include putting the patient into a cardiac rehabilitation program and, for some, it could mean receiving a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), a mechanical circulatory support tool that can improve the patient’s survival and quality of life while awaiting a donor heart. 

“Then, post-transplant care for the patients includes individualized treatment plans of three anti-rejection medicines selected based on the patient’s gender, age, race, and other key factors,” Dr. Benza added. “Transplant patients are closely monitored following their surgery, including regular blood work, echocardiograms, electrocardiograms, and heart biopsies. All of these tests allow us to make sure the patients are responding well to their new hearts.”

The SRTR database gives patients the opportunity to compare transplant centers across the country on one website. Data is collected directly by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) from transplant programs, as well as from organ procurement organizations (OPOs) such as the Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE) in western Pennsylvania. This information is also supplemented by data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and other sources. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requires that SRTR make all data available in aggregate to the public.

“When we launched the AGH heart transplant program more than 30 years ago, the goal was to establish one of the top centers not just in the state, but the country,” said George J. Magovern Jr., MD, Co-chair of the AHN Cardiovascular Institute and System Chair, Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. Dr. Magovern oversaw the development of AGH’s heart transplant program when he arrived in 1985. 

Two years later, Dr. Magovern and his team performed the hospital’s first heart transplant.  

“Last year, we celebrated our 400th heart transplant,” Dr. Magovern noted. “That volume speaks to the steady growth of the program, and these latest SRTR figures reflect the continuing high quality of care that we provide to those suffering from end-stage heart failure.”

In addition to Drs. Bailey, Benza and Magovern, AGH’s heart transplant team includes Srinivas Murali, MD, Co-Chairman, AHN Cardiovascular Institute and Interim Chairman, Department of Cardiovascular Medicine. A nationally recognized cardiologist who specializes in advanced heart failure treatment, Dr. Murali joined the hospital in 2006 and has been instrumental to the heart transplant program’s success over the past 13 years. 

Other key members of the AGH team include heart failure specialists Craig Alpert, MD; Azam Hadi, MD; Manreet Kanwar, MD; Mathew Lander, MD; Amresh Raina, MD; and Andrew Pogozelski, MD; cardiac surgeons Scott Halbreiner, MD; Walter McGregor, MD; and Masaki Tsukashita, MD; and transplant coordinators Gabby Allen, Bridget Flynn, Rebecca Ligman, Kari Mahoney, Rebecca Pirozzi, and Alysa Roman.