Omaha, NE – Twenty one people received new hearts at The Nebraska Medical Center in 2010, a new high for the state of Nebraska’s only cardiac transplantation program.
“I attribute the growth in patients to an increase in awareness around the region about the abilities we have here,” said Ioana Dumitru, MD, heart failure specialist and transplant cardiologist at The Nebraska Medical Center. “Also, our use of the HeartMate II left ventricular assist device (LVAD) makes more people candidates for transplant than ever before.”
Medical center doctors began using the HeartMate II in January of 2009. The FDA approved its use in 2008 as a “bridge to transplant” device, meaning it can be used temporarily to keep patients alive while they wait for a transplant. It helps take a strain off a patient’s failing heart by helping it to pump blood into the aorta, the body’s main blood vessel. The LVAD can supplement the patient’s own heart, allowing their body time to recover and strengthen while they wait for a donor heart.
“This means patients can wait longer for a donor heart,” explained Dr. Dumitru. “And, when a donor heart is found, the recipients are stronger and better suited for surgery.”
There are approximately 2,000 heart transplants in the United States each year. At any given time, there are about 3,000 people on the transplant waiting list.
The growth in patients necessitates a larger staff. Dr. Dumitru said the department plans to add at least one new transplant cardiologist to the team in 2011.
Dr. Dumitru also credits the transplant program’s expansion to the growing expertise and reputation for excellence at The Nebraska Medical Center and its academic and research partner The University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Earlier this month, Dr. Dumitru was in the first group of heart failure specialists to earn the American Board of Internal Medicine’s (ABIM) certification for heart failure and transplant cardiology. Earning the certification requires a specialist physician to demonstrate superior skills and knowledge in all areas related to cardiology including pulmonary hypertension and mechanical assist devices. She is one of just 250 physicians in the U.S. to earn this certification.
“This certification continues to demonstrate our commitment to extraordinary patient care,” said Jorge Parodi, executive director of cardiovascular and pulmonary services at The Nebraska Medical Center. “It also recognizes Dr. Dumitru’s commitment to excellence in her clinical specialty. All these accolades elevate our program to the highest level and continue to set a new standard for patient care.”
Dr. Dumitru believes her individual certification will lead to improvements in the medical center’s clinical, educational and research areas.
“It should give patients greater confidence about the standards of quality care we provide here,” she said. “It offers up the opportunity for growth in research. It will also allow us to create a fellowship to train other specialists in this area.”