St. Louis Children’s Hospital has one of the most active pediatric heart transplant programs in the country, with patients coming from all over the greater Midwest. Since its establishment in 1986 under the direction of Charles Canter, MD, more than 165 patients, ranging in age from 3 days to 22 years, have received new organs. Transplantation is now routinely offered as therapy for end stage acquired or critical congenital heart disease when no other satisfactory medical or surgical options are available.
Preparation for transplantation
A comprehensive evaluation is undertaken prior to consideration for transplantation. A skilled team of cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurse clinicians, nursing staff, social workers and therapists work in concert with the family to prepare for the transplantation and keep the patient in optimal health during the wait for a suitable organ. Depending on the nature and severity of the underlying heart disease, your child may be required to be in hospital while waiting.
Outcome after transplantation
Despite the severity of the underlying diseases, pediatric heart transplantation carries an outstanding prognosis. Survival rates for children who received heart transplants at St. Louis Children’s Hospital is comparable with the national one-year survival rate for all age groups. After their transplants, these infants, children and older pediatric patients exhibit normal growth, development and ability to fight common childhood infections. The vast majority attend school and participate in a variety of normal childhood activities, such as sports. Pediatric heart transplant recipients, like their adult counterparts, need to take medicine daily to prevent organ rejection. In addition, surveillance for rejection is performed on a regular basis.
Long term follow-up
Since 75 percent of the transplant referrals come from outside of the metropolitan St. Louis area, the hospital has developed a strong network of cardiologists throughout the region familiar with transplant follow-up care. Our goal is to return pediatric transplant patients to their local cardiologists or pediatricians for follow-up care. This increases patient and family satisfaction and convenience and fosters a combined team approach for continued care. Frequent contact between our transplant team and the local cardiologist/pediatrician ensures continued communication about the patient’s progress and treatment plan. As a result, referring physicians have expressed increased satisfaction with their ability to provide excellent post-transplant care for their patients.