UPMC Bridging the Great Health Divide: Pediatric Heart Transplant

Published: Jun. 15, 2023 at 6:24 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 26, 2023 at 1:31 PM EDT
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BRIDGEPORT, W.Va (WDTV) - Pediatric heart transplant is a highly specialized form of health care performed at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Jasmin Adous tells us more in this month’s Bridging the Great Health Divide sponsored by UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

The pediatric heart transplant program at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh was the second of it’s kind in the world. Surgeons have performed almost 400 pediatric and young adult heart transplants since 1982. Dr. Brian Feingold is the program’s Director of Heart Failure and Heart Transplantation. He says the program’s success it due to it’s people.

“We have great nurses, great surgeons, great cardiologists, skilled people to read the other testing that we need to make sure that a patient is doing well after transplant,” said Dr. Feingold. “We have lots of experts in other fields who can help us care for transplant patient, should there be complications. And we just have a very strong program of dedicated specialists who have demonstrated great outcomes, you know our overall program outcomes are excellent. Patients do really well.”

UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh has advanced technology that allows patients to be better prepared for heart transplant surgery.

“We also use machines that are called ventricular assist devices and this is an amazing technology that can be used in some patients and put in if they’re real sick and their heart isn’t working well,” said Dr. Feingold. “And it gives them enough heart output so that they can get stronger and better for their transplant surgery. And so in the old days, when we didn’t have those machines, patients would limp in a transplant sometimes and be very, very sick, having been in the hospital, having been bed bound, not eating very well. And those patients struggle to get better after a transplant. And now we have these machines that really allow a large number of patients to survive, to wait for the wait to get a transplant. The wait is not short, unfortunately. It allows them to get more strong and more healthy and in turn they do better after their transplant.”

No heart transplant is like another and Dr. Feingold says that he and his team adapt care to each patient’s individual needs.

“Heart transplantation can be very complicated,” said Dr. Feingold. “It depends a little bit on each patient is unique and what their underlying reason or need is for the transplant. Some of our patients are born with heart defects or heart differences from birth. Those patients, the surgery is more complicated because there’s more. Cutting and sewing that needs to be done sometimes. And so that also adds to some of the differences and complexities.”

Having a child who needs heart surgery is daunting enough without worrying about things like food and housing. An important resource for families at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is the Ronald McDonald House. It provides a place to stay for families while their child is receiving and recovering from transplant surgery.

“A huge, huge benefit to to families who are already stressed and and dealing with a lot of other things to not have to worry about where they’re going to stay and how they’re going to get back and forth,” said Dr. Feingold.

Dr. Feingold says the level of care and the caring staff at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh draw patients from around the country.

“We are always receiving referrals from other centers. Often these are patients who have been told that they are not eligible for a transplant where they live,” said Dr. Feingold. “I think this place is special. I think the families tell me time and time again how the care here is different, how people really are invested in that care and really go out of their way to make a really welcoming, positive, helpful atmosphere. And so I think that does set us apart.”

For more information about UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh’s pediatric heart transplant program, send an e-mail to greathealthdivide@chp.edu.