The expected mortality rate of the 44 heart transplant patients that the University of Chicago Medical Center operated on over the past year was 7.4. The rate was 6.6 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. At Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, 5.8. At Cleveland Clinic, 7.3.
The observed mortality at UCMC was 0, a 100% survival rate — the best out of any program in the nation.
Furthermore, the average wait time is also the shortest, only a month and three days — the national average is 6.4 months — with three quarters of patients receiving their transplants within 2.8 months.
"If you ask a patient, they really don't care if it's large or small. They care about whether they're going to live and how fast they're going to get an organ. And by both of those parameters, this is the best program in the country," said Dr. Valluvan Jeevanandam, section chief of cardiac surgery, at an Oct. 14 event announcing the results from SRTR, the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients.
"This amazing accomplishment has taken years of investment by the institution and the development and dedication of many professionals to help our patients. This is a large team of physicians, nurses, administrators, coordinators and countless health care professionals that work together often in the middle of the night, to provide the best care to the sickest patients.
"And we also have to remember the courage of our patients and the heroism of our donors and our donor-families."
Cardiologist Dr. Gene Kim said the benchmark of transplant recipients who are alive a year after their operations is the benchmark that gets scrutinized the most, with the expected mortality rate weighting what other comorbidities (like diabetes or kidney issues) patients had.
UCMC's program also has the highest percentage of Black donor-recipients in the country.
"Obviously, we operate on and care for the community that we serve, most of which is the South Side of Chicago," said Park. "When all those people come in, we do really well, no matter where they come from."
Park chalked up the UCMC's success to the caliber of his team. He said his colleagues are better able to match donor-hearts with patients, allowing them to accept hearts that other centers would not accept.
"All hearts when you accept them are good, but it doesn't necessarily mean that they're a good particular match for that particular patient. There's a lot of other factors than just 'this person needs a heart, that person is donating a heart,'" he said. "The extend to which we vet all the donors, we look at all the information with our own eyes, we have an expert surgical team that can handle taking care of a heart as it's traveling."
"There's a lot of commitment, and if you take this team: the surgical expertise, the medical expertise, the commitment from the hospital to really take care of these patients — I think that's how it all adds up. I think we're unique in how well we work together."
U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush gave the keynote about his late wife Carolyn's successful operation at UCMC.
"I've heard all the facts and the data, but it all comes to bear on the personal relationships, the difficulties, the challenges, the good times and the bad," he said.
Carolyn had congestive heart failure, which the two decided to treat at UCMC. "I had a lot of hours, late here observing the interactions between the medical team here and my wife and my family," Rush said.
She got a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) installed, and Rush nursed her with the UCMC team's advice. Carolyn lived for seven more years after her operation.
"I can speak personally about this team here," he said. "You were always number one in my opinion, but I'm so glad that the world has finally caught up. They could have asked me years ago."