UChicago Medicine performs 66 heart transplants in 2022, sets new state record for 2nd consecutive year

With the successful completion of back-to-back Christmas heart transplants, the University of Chicago Medicine set a new heart transplantation record for the state of Illinois, surpassing its own previous high-water mark for heart transplants. 

The Hyde Park-based academic health system performed 66 heart transplants in 2022, surpassing last year’s record of 61

The latest heart transplants occurred on Dec. 24 and Dec. 25, and both patients are recovering. 

“It’s an honor and a privilege to perform these life-saving surgeries and watch our patients’ lives transform and flourish,” said Valluvan Jeevanandam, MD, Director of UChicago Medicine’s Heart and Vascular Center and a surgeon who has performed more than 1,500 heart transplants. “We are particularly proud of our survival outcomes and speed to getting hearts, which make us the best program in the USA. Setting a new state record for the second time is just icing on the cake.”

In July, data from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR) showed UChicago Medicine’s heart transplant program had the highest one-year survival rate, lowest hazard ratio (odds of having a complication) and shortest transplant wait times in the country. During the July SRTR report, UChicago Medicine’s heart transplant patients had a 100% one-year survival rate. UChicago Medicine’s wait time for a heart transplant was 0.7 months, according to the SRTR. The national average for a new heart is 4.9 months.

UChicago Medicine’s heart transplant wait times are particularly low because of the unique expertise of the organization’s medical and surgical teams, which allows surgeons to use donor organs that other transplant centers might forgo. 

Almost 16% of UChicago Medicine’s 2022 heart transplant recipients were Jehovah’s Witnesses whose religious beliefs prevent them from receiving blood transfusions that are standard during heart transplants. UChicago Medicine is the largest program in the country to routinely perform so-called “bloodless heart surgeries” that comply with Jehovah’s Witness doctrine. Success for these specialized operations mandates extraordinary surgical precision and meticulous medical care. 

“Our transplant and heart failure teams have built a truly unique and advanced program that caters to patients from all walks of life,” said Christopher Salerno, MD, Director of Adult Cardiac Surgery and the Surgical Director of the Heart Transplant and Mechanical Assist Device Program. “This high level of quality permeates throughout the entire program resulting in the overall outstanding survival results.”

UChicago Medicine is also closing out 2022 with an institutional record of 27 multi-organ transplants. Its previous record — 23 — was set in 2020. (Northwestern Memorial Hospital holds the state’s multi-organ transplant record, performing 31 such procedures in 2005.) 

Transplant center data is tracked by the federal government. 

In all, UChicago Medicine has performed 318 organ transplants in 2022. In addition to its heart and multi-organ transplants, teams at the health system also perform liver transplants, kidney transplants, pancreas transplants and lung transplants

“We are incredibly grateful to the families who made the selfless decision to give the gift of life by donating their loved one’s organs,” said Rolf Barth, MD, Director of Liver, Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation and Associate Director of UChicago Medicine’s Transplant Institute. “They’re the real heroes for making life-saving decisions even while they grieve the loss of a family member. We are all truly indebted to them.”