February 20, 2019

Yale first in state to offer pediatric heart transplants

PHOTO | Contributed
PHOTO | Contributed
In the specialized Yale New Haven Children's Hospital heart center operating room are (l-r): Peter J. Gruber, MD; pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon, Yale New Haven Children's Hospital and professor of surgery, Yale School of Medicine; Jeremy Asnes, MD, director, pediatric cardiac catheterization laboratory, Yale New Haven Hospital and associate professor, pediatrics (cardiology) at Yale School of Medicine and T-Y Hsia, MD, chief, pediatric cardiac surgery for Yale New Haven Children's Hospital and Yale Medicine.

Children who need a heart transplant can get the procedure closer to home now.

Yale New Haven Children's Hospital announced this week it is the first facility in Connecticut and Rhode Island to offer the surgery.

The United Network of Organ Sharing, which serves as the nation's Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network under contract to the federal Department of Health & Human Services, recently granted certification to the hospital, according to Mark D'Antonio, hospital spokesman.

This past summer the hospital, in collaboration with Yale School of Medicine and its clinical practice Yale Medicine, recruited leaders in pediatric cardiac surgery from around the world.

T-Y Hsia, MD, the new chief of pediatric cardiac surgery, said children from Connecticut and Rhode Island have previously had to travel to facilities in Boston, Philadelphia or New York City for a heart transplant.

"It is long overdue to have a dedicated, comprehensive program here in Connecticut," Hsia said. "We can provide care for all heart conditions, and there is no need to go out of state. The idea is to provide truly comprehensive heart care for the children of Connecticut. Our goal is for all children in the state who need this to come to Yale."

Hsia noted these patients need regular follow-up care, particularly during the first year after surgery. The children need to be checked frequently to ensure their bodies aren't rejecting the new heart, for example. They need follow-up care for years and even the rest of their lives, according to Hsia.

"It becomes an economic issue — it is a burden to have to go out of state for surgery and for follow-up care," Hsia said. "That's time away from families and friends."

When asked how many Connecticut children need a heart transplant in a given year, Hsia said it varies, but "every year, upwards of seven to 10 children in Connecticut have been referred out of state for heart transplants,"

Children need heart transplants for a variety of reasons, such as cardiomyopathy, viral infections, and congenital heart defects, according to Hsia.

In addition to Hsia, Yale recruited Peter J. Gruber, MD, associate chief of pediatric cardiac surgery at the children's hospital. They join Jeremy Asnes, MD, who is director of Yale Medicine and the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at the children's hospital, and the rest of the hospital's Heart Center team.

D'Antonio also stressed the importance of children and families from Connecticut and Rhode Island having access to comprehensive pediatric cardiac care closer to home.

Yale's pediatric and adult heart transplant physicians and surgeons will be able to collaborate within the Yale system, which will benefit all patients, according to D'Antonio.

The children's hospital's Children's Heart Center offers comprehensive care for newborns, infants and children for a range of heart conditions.

"We're treating not just the patient but the family, to help parents understand their child's medical condition, what can be expected from surgery and the entire care process, and especially how to partner with families to reduce the stress of having a critically ill child," Hsia said.

Contact Michelle Tuccitto Sullo at msullo@NewHavenBiz.com

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