NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital celebrates 25th anniversary of pediatric heart transplantation

NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital is celebrating the 25th anniversary of pediatric heart transplantation. In 1984, the Hospital's surgeons performed the world's first successful heart transplant, giving the gift of life to a 4-year-old boy. In the intervening quarter century, more than 350 children have received new hearts at the Hospital, which today has among the country's top three largest pediatric heart transplant programs.

On Sunday, Nov. 8, an expected 200 of these heart transplant recipients and their families will return to NewYork-Presbyterian to celebrate the milestone together with the transplant team that helped give them the "gift of life." (The event takes place at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, 3959 Broadway at 165th St., from 1 to 3 p.m.)

"We are very proud to mark 25 years of giving children with the most serious heart conditions the chance of a new start. Nothing is more touching than seeing a critically ill child get the chance to grow up," says Dr. Craig Smith, interim surgeon-in-chief and chief of cardiothoracic surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center and the Calvin F. Barber Professor of Surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. "The continued success of our heart transplant program is a testament to the dedication of our multidisciplinary transplant team, including surgeons, cardiologists, nurse specialists, psychiatrists, social workers, child life specialists and physical therapists, who work in close concert to ensure the best possible outcomes."

While NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital treats some of the most complex cases, its survival rates surpass the national average, with children routinely returning to normal levels of activity and living into adulthood.

25 Years of Treatment Advances

"Since heart transplants first became available at our hospital a quarter century ago, a host of scientific advances -- including some pioneered here -- have made a major difference in improving the availability and effectiveness of heart transplantation, while extending survival and enhancing quality of life," says Dr. Jonathan Chen, surgical director of pediatric heart transplantation at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital and the Komansky Center for Children's Health at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Dr. Chen is also an associate professor of cardiothoracic surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College and adjunct associate professor of surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

"These improvements, together with our multidisciplinary team approach, have helped us set the standard for pediatric heart transplantation, providing hearts to infants and children with complex congenital heart diseases, as well as high-risk patients who could not be transplanted elsewhere," adds Dr. Chen.

Beginning in the 1980s, NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital physician-scientists helped develop cardiac and respiratory support machines, including ventricular assist devices (VADs) and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), that have dramatically extended the time that children with heart failure can survive until an organ becomes available. Today, the Hospital offers some VADs that can be implanted without open surgery.

Advanced immunosuppressive regimens and techniques have not only improved long-term outcomes by reducing the risk that a patient's body rejects their transplanted organ, but has expanded the availability of organs for infants as well. "These techniques now allow us to transplant hearts that would otherwise be incompatible. In 2001, our Hospital was the first in the United States to offer an ABO-blood-type-incompatible transplant for an infant," says Dr. Linda Addonizio, director of the Program for Pediatric Cardiomyopathy, Heart Failure and Transplantation at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital and professor of pediatrics at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. "Today this approach has become routine -- something that has been a major benefit for infants in need of a heart transplant since so few of these matching organs are available."

"More than anything, our heart transplant program is only possible because of the kindness and generosity of donor families who turned the tragedy of losing their child into the chance of life for another child. It is their heroic gesture at the center of it all," adds Dr. Addonizio, who has served as the medical director of the Hospital's heart transplant team since its inception. "Sadly there is still a shortage of organs, underlining the importance of educating people on the value of organ donation for themselves and their loved ones."

Pediatric Heart Transplant Milestones at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital

•In 1983, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia helped initiate clinical trials of cyclosporine, the immunosuppressive drug that revolutionized the field of transplantation. The drug is still today the most commonly prescribed immunosuppressant used in organ transplantation.

•Surgeons at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital performed the world's first successful pediatric heart transplant in 1984.

•In the 1980s and 1990s, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia led research on left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), both of which have dramatically improved the time that children with heart failure can survive until an organ becomes available.

•In 1985, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia became the only medical center in the state to be designated as a regional heart transplant center by the New York State Health Planning and Review Council.

•In 1989, the Hospital was the first in the U.S. to successfully transplant a child with complex single ventricle following unsuccessful corrective surgery.

•In 1993, the team helped initiate what is today the biggest national database on pediatric heart transplantation outcomes.

•In 2001, the Hospital performed the country's first ABO-blood-type-incompatible heart transplant in a child.

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