13 Patients Receive New Hearts During COVID-19 Pandemic

MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute Performs Record Number of Heart Transplantation

July 20, 2020

Washington, D.C. – While some hospitals across the country paused or reduced organ transplants, MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center performed a record number of heart transplants during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Between March and May, 13 patients received new hearts–more than double MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute’s typical volumes, which led to a 2020 fiscal year total of 23 transplants by June 30. 

The increase was also attributed to donated hearts, allocated by the United Network for Organ Sharing, becoming more readily available to patients at MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute since some large heart transplant centers in states hard-hit by COVID-19 had to shutter their programs.

“There were a lot of thoughtful discussions among our team members, as we weighed the risks of performing heart transplantation during the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic,” said cardiothoracic surgeon Ezequiel Molina, MD, surgical director of the Left Ventricular Assist Device and Heart Transplant programs at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. “As we know, cardiovascular care is rarely truly elective. It’s all essential and time sensitive. And this is one great example of delivering the vital, lifesaving care to the 13 patients who got a second chance at life.”

MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute implemented extraordinary safety protocols to protect providers, while safeguarding the health and wellbeing of these transplant recipients. The protocols included screening and priority COVID-19 testing to rule out the virus before the patients were transplanted, dedicated COVID-19-free units to minimize infection risk, and use of telemedicine to remain connected with patients, reducing hospital visits for pre-screenings and post-transplant management.

“Our entire team came together to fast track innovative approaches, and continued to serve those patients in need of transplantation, achieving historically high numbers of successful heart transplants during the three-month period,” said Maria E. Rodrigo, MD, medical director of Heart Transplantation at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. “The continuity of lifesaving care for these patients is the bedrock of what we do, and what we will continue doing.”

MedStar Washington Hospital Center’s heart transplantation program started in 1987. To date, more than 350 patients have received heart transplants. The program’s current clinical outcomes are exceptional, exceeding the one-year national average for patient and graft survival rates.


Donor heart arrives at MedStar Washington Hospital Center

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MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute, founded at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C., is a national leader in the research, diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease, and has been consistently recognized by U.S.News & World Report and The Society of Thoracic Surgeons as one of the top cardiovascular programs in the nation. In January 2013, MedStar Heart formed a first-of-its-kind clinical and research alliance with world-renowned Cleveland Clinic Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute, the #1 heart program in the country. Together, MedStar Heart and Cleveland Clinic have forged a relationship of shared expertise that is transforming cardiovascular care, enhancing quality, improving safety and increasing access to advanced heart and vascular services. Medstar Heart comprises more than 140 cardiovascular physician specialists throughout the mid-Atlantic region as well as the nationally recognized heart care of all nine MedStar Health acute care hospitals and MedStar National Rehabilitation Network.

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