Houston Matters

Well-Known Heart Transplant Program Has Survival Rate Ranking Near The Bottom Nationally

A new report examines the heart transplant program at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center.

A new report says a well-known heart transplant program here in Houston has had some of the worst outcomes in the country.

The joint investigation from the Houston Chronicle and ProPublica examines heart transplants at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center. Among the findings: St. Luke’s heart transplant survival rate ranks near the bottom nationally.

To learn more about the report, Houston Matters talks with Mike Hixenbaugh, an investigative reporter with the Chronicle, and Charles Ornstein, a senior editor at ProPublica.

Statement from Baylor St. Luke’s (Updated 5:54 p.m.):

Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center expressed strong confidence in its internationally recognized heart-transplant program, despite recent media criticism that the hospital said is in some cases inaccurate, incomplete and does not represent its quality of care or its expertise in this specialized field of heart transplant.

“We believe we have a solid and important program that is changing lives,” said Dr. Andrew Civitello, Medical Director of the Heart Transplant Program. “We are confident of the care provided by the heart transplant team of more than 250 professionals who contribute to each patient’s treatment and recovery. While we are confident in our heart transplant program and in the excellent care and compassion patients and families receive, we are working every day to make the program better and something in which Houston can continue to be proud.”

Heart transplant patients often have undergone years of prior heart procedures, and sometimes even previous heart pump or other device implants to keep them alive, and often battle other illnesses and diseases. All of these factors can make a heart transplant even more complex. Despite those challenges, 94 percent of our patients over the past two years received successful heart transplants – defined as survival over one year – better than the national survival rate.

Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center continually monitors the clinical outcomes of our heart transplant program. After observing a higher than expected mortality rate in 2015, the hospital made procedural changes that led to an increase in the number of successfully performed transplants in 2016 and 2017.

“Hundreds of patients and families look to us each year for a second chance at life, and we greatly value the trust they place with us,” Dr. Civitello said. “The heart transplant program plays a vital role in our community and nationally, and will continue to do so.”

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