Newark, NJ -- At the core of the Saint Barnabas Health Care System's Heart Transplant Program at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center is a team of dedicated physicians who possess equal measures of talent, experience and compassion. Led by Mark J. Zucker, M.D., J.D., Director, Cardiothoracic Transplantation and Associate Professor of Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, the team has brought the program into national focus. In the 15 years since Dr. Zucker began his work at Newark Beth Israel, the lives of some 375 heart transplant recipients have not only been extended, but enriched.
Before the 1950's, organ transplantation belonged more to the realm of science fiction than to medical science. By the early 70's, it was considered an experimental treatment with serious risks. Today, thanks to incredible advances in one of medicine's most rapidly evolving specialties, organ transplantation is accepted as the standard and most cost effective treatment for organ failure over the long term.
The Heart Transplant Program at Newark Beth Israel has all the ingredients of a premier transplant center, excelling in the critical factors laid out by The United Network for Organ Sharing, the nation's organ donation and procurement governing body. Among them are the number of transplant surgeries performed at the institution, the graft survival rates, and the general feeling of confidence a patient gains from the transplant team. In 2004 alone, Dr. Zucker's team performed 42 transplants, putting the program among the top ten in the country.
Their continued success is measured in the extraordinary short- and long-term graft survival rates that consistently surpass the national averages. When days can mean the difference between life and death, the Heart Transplant Center at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center has one of the shortest average recipient waiting times in the Northeast?an average of 88 days, compared to the national average of 184 days.
Aggressive in the treatment of end-stage organ disease and known across the country as strong advocates for transplant candidates, the Heart Transplant Program offers treatment not available elsewhere. For example, the program was one of only three in the nation ? and the only center in the Northeast ? chosen to participate in the trial use of the DeBakey left ventricular assist devices (LVAD). This smaller, quieter mechanical device serves as a bridge for patients whose heart fails before a compatible organ is available.
"This model makes cardiac mechanical support available to women and teens. Patients can go home and return to their lives while they wait for a transplant," says Dr. Zucker. "Heart transplantation is the gold standard treatment, but unfortunately only 2,400 patients per year will be fortunate enough to undergo heart transplantation due to the limited donor supply. Mechanical cardiac support, such as the LVAD, is the future. To be truly successful, however, an artificial heart needs to be fully implantable and forgettable. We are a long way from that ideal right now, but these devices are steadily improving."
Newark Beth Israel Medical Center is the only hospital in New Jersey and one of only 30 hospitals nationwide participating in a clinical trial to test the new Acorn CorCap Cardiac Support, a new device which holds promise for extending and improving the overall health of those with severe heart disease who are not candidates for heart transplantation.
"Heart failure has become a true epidemic in this country," says Daniel Goldstein, M.D., Surgical Director of Cardiac Transplantation and Mechanical Assistance. Heart failure affects nearly 5 million Americans and is the only cardiovascular disorder on the rise. More than 550,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. "We have enlarged our team and increased the number of medications and technologies available to patients in New Jersey. Located between major university-based transplant centers in New York City and Philadelphia, we have proven that we can do as good a job ? and in many cases a better job ? than neighboring institutions," he asserts. "High quality cardiac care is right here in New Jersey."
"When I began my career, a transplant nurse told me that the highs would be very high and the lows very low. It's one of the most accurate statements you can make about heart transplantation," reflects Dr. Zucker. "My colleagues and I are on a first name basis with all of our patients. They are our friends and we share life's milestones with them. If we lose a patient, it is like losing a family member."
The teams' goals for the future can be summed up in one word ? MORE. More research, more heart transplants, more and improved technology, and enhanced graft survival rates. "In medicine, we cannot limit ourselves to the daily care of patients, no matter how accomplished we are," says Dr. Zucker. "It is essential that we continue to discover better ways to treat end-stage heart disease."
Newark Beth Israel Medical Center is a 671-bed tertiary care teaching hospital with specialized services including heart and kidney transplantation, adult and pediatric cardiac surgery, hematology/ oncology, general and vascular surgery, behavioral health services, and maternal/child care. Newark Beth Israel is home to the Saint Barnabas Heart Center and Children's Hospital of New Jersey.
Date: April 28, 2005
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