KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City said it has received permission to begin performing pediatric heart transplants.
The United Network for Organ Sharing, a nonprofit that oversees organ allocation and transplant programs for the federal government, recently approved the hospital’s program, The Kansas City Star (http://bit.ly/1uFTSPH ) reported. More than 50 other programs nationwide perform heart transplants on patients under age 18.
Aliessa Barnes, the hospital’s heart transplantation specialist, said the Kansas City program will mean patients no longer have to travel to places like Denver and St. Louis for the surgery. Children’s Mercy was referring about six heart patients each year to those cities.
“It was really hard for them,” Barnes said. “They usually would have to live in those cities. And many times, these are kids who’ve had previous surgeries. Their whole care team (at Children’s Mercy) feels like part of the family, too.”
Barnes will supervise patients’ care before and after transplant surgery. Surgeon James D. St. Louis, who previously directed heart transplantation at the University of Minnesota’s children’s hospital, will perform the operations.
Barnes said she expects Children’s Mercy to perform five to seven heart transplants a year at first, with that number doubling in the future.
“I am hoping we do the first before the end of the year,” she said.
The hospital announced in 2011 that it was pursuing a heart transplant program with its sights set on completing 20 to 25 transplants annually, making it one of the largest programs in the United States.
Barnes thinks those projections were “pretty bold” and said the program will need to start small. She said the program will have to refer high-risk cases to other hospitals until it’s running smoothly.
Any program performing more than 10 transplants each year is considered large, Barnes said.
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