In a historic first for Texas, UT Health Austin and Dell Children’s Medical Center announce a partial heart transplant on an 11-month-old boy. This is the seventh known pediatric partial heart transplant in the world.
The landmark surgery was performed on June 23 at The Texas Center for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease at Dell Children’s, in partnership with UT Health Austin, the clinical practice of Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin.
In a partial heart transplant, valves are procured from a donor heart that was not suitable for full transplantation. The goal is to allow the harvested living valves to grow with the pediatric patient over time, potentially increasing life expectancy.
“Our team is excited about this procedure, it has the potential to change the paradigm of valve surgery in pediatric heart disease. This potentially life-saving surgery can make use of a donated heart that would otherwise not be transplantable,” said Carlos Mery, M.D., MPH, surgical director of the Heart Transplant Program at Dell Children’s and Associate Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Surgery and Perioperative Care at Dell Med.
The 11-hour surgery was performed on 11-month-old Elias Robinson-Rodriquez. Baby Elias was born with a congenital heart defect condition called transposition of the great arteries with obstruction of the part of the heart that pumps blood to the body. Despite prior surgery on the valve, the valve between the lower left heart chamber and the body’s main artery (aorta) was narrowed and didn’t open fully. This reduced or blocked blood flow from the heart to the aorta and to the rest of the body. Following the surgery, Elias is showing remarkable improvement and his outlook remains strong. This was the third open heart surgery for Elias.
“This is a milestone procedure, a partial transplant allows surgeons to tap into a supply of donor hearts that go unused due to deficiencies. We are thrilled with Elias’ progress and we are hopeful this will eliminate the need for future surgeries,” said Chesney Castleberry, M.D., medical director of the Pediatric Heart Failure and Transplant Program and Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Dell Med. Only three other institutions in the U.S. have performed partial pediatric heart transplants in the past: Duke University, Columbia University and Medical University of South Carolina.
“Our ability to perform this surgery is a major step in Dell Children’s effort to provide innovative, life-changing care for the most complex cardiac cases in the region,” said Charles Fraser, Jr., M.D., Chief of Pediatric and Congenital Heart Surgery, Texas Center for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease. “This groundbreaking surgery provides hope for thousands of babies with congenital heart defects and amplifies the way we can use the gift of organ donation to save more lives,” said Fraser, Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Surgery and Perioperative Care at Dell Med.
Dell Children’s heart transplant team is led by Castleberry and Mery.
The team includes nationally recognized pediatric heart surgeon Fraser, highly skilled and experienced specialists including pediatric cardiologists, pediatric cardiac anesthesiologists, perfusionists, transplant coordinators, advanced-practice providers, nurses, pharmacists, nutritionists, social workers, child life specialists, physical and occupational therapists – all providing unparalleled care for patients.
The Texas Center for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease at Dell Children’s was established in 2018 and is led by Fraser. This program, which has strategically recruited new physicians to the Austin area to increase access to world-class providers and specialists, includes the integration of clinical academics and research-driven initiatives through the exclusive partnership with Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin and UT Health Austin. The program was recently recognized by the Society of Thoracic Surgeons as one of the few programs in the nation with significantly better outcomes after congenital heart surgery than the national benchmark. As the only Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center in Central Texas, the capability of the Heart Transplant Program is enriched by Dell Children’s depth and breadth of expertise in numerous subspecialities.
About UT Health Austin
UT Health Austin is the clinical practice of the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin. UT Health Austin clinicians collaborate with colleagues at the Dell Medical School, The University of Texas at Austin, and in the community to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques in every clinical encounter. Our experienced healthcare professionals deliver personalized, whole-person care of uncompromising quality and treat each patient as an individual with unique circumstances, priorities, and beliefs. Working directly with patients and their families, we create individualized care plans designed to help our patients reach the goals that matter most to them — in the care room and beyond. Visit www.uthealthaustin.org
In Texas, Ascension operates Ascension Providence, Ascension Seton, which includes Dell Children’s Medical Center, the region’s only comprehensive children’s hospital and pediatric Level I trauma center, and Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas, the region’s only Level I trauma center for adults. Ascension Seton partners with Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin and shares a common vision of transforming healthcare through a focus on quality and value. Serving Texas for 120 years, Ascension is a faith-based healthcare organization committed to delivering compassionate, personalized care to all, with special attention to persons living in poverty and those most vulnerable. Ascension is one of the leading non-profit and Catholic health systems in the U.S., operating 2,600 sites of care – including 139 hospitals and more than 40 senior living facilities – in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Visit www.ascension.org and www.dellchildrens.net.
About the Partnership Between Ascension Seton and UT Health Austin
The collaboration between Ascension Seton and UT Health Austin, the clinical practice of the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin, brings together medical professionals, medical school learners and researchers, who are all part of the integrated mission of transforming health care delivery and redesigning the academic health environment to better serve society. This collaboration allows us to provide you with a team of highly specialized providers who are at the forefront of the latest research, diagnostic and technological developments.