The heart transplant program at Sacred Heart Medical Center is incredibly successful compared with similar programs nationwide.
The program’s one-year survival rate was about 96 percent of the 55 heart transplant patients between 1988 and 1994. That compares with an expected survival rate of about 82 percent for similar heart transplant programs around the country.
“The program has had a fair amount of success,” said Joel Newman, spokesman for the United Network for Organ Sharing. “That should be something the hospital can point to.”
The national organ sharing network, which runs the nation’s transplant program, has just released its 1997 report analyzing transplant trends from 1988 through 1994.
The report, produced every two or three years, doesn’t rank programs. Instead, patients can use the data to help choose a transplant center. The data, which include everything from a patient’s race to body mass, also can be used for clinical studies. Managed-care companies sometimes use the data to pick hospitals for their networks of care.
For the first time, the organ network published the 3,000-page report online at www.unos.org. It also is available by calling (804) 330-8541.
The study also showed that Sacred Heart’s heart-and-lung transplant program is operating above expected levels, while the lung program is slightly below. Neither number is statistically significant.
“I don’t worry too much about the ones having good results,” said Dr.
Timothy Icenogle, director of the Inland Northwest Thoracic Organ Transplant Program. “I worry about those average results.”
Icenogle credited everything from God to rigorous medical protocols for the heart program’s success.
The transplant team follows a risk-management policy based on one used in the aerospace industry. Specific protocols are designed to prevent errors.
Icenogle carries a list of every patient who needs a transplant in his pocket. Each patient’s blood type, weight and other vital statistics are listed.
If a patient’s blood type is incorrectly marked, that error could be fatal. So two people check the list and sign off on it.
“Anybody can make an error,” Icenogle said. “Even the smartest, the brightest, the most caring people mess up. What we try to do is design protocols to anticipate how people can possibly mess up.”
The program’s three-year survival rate is about 97 percent compared with an expected 91 percent survival rate for similar programs.
“The center staff should take this as a pat on the back and as an encouragement for their hard work and effort,” Icenogle said.
The Sacred Heart transplant program has performed at least 103 heart transplants, 20 single-lung transplants, two double-lung transplants and 17 heart-and-lung transplants since starting in 1989.