Recently the heart transplant program at Lutheran Hospital announced in a news release that it is fully activated under new surgical director Hannah Copeland, MD, FACC, FACS. The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) Board of Directors approved the program for reactivation based on the recommendation from the OPTN Membership and Professional Standards Committee.
The heart transplant team
“Heart transplant programs require clinical expertise, a collaborative approach, ongoing patient education and compassionate care,” said Copeland in a statement. “I am confident in our team and our approach to serving the critically ill patients and families who have placed their trust in our hands.”
Copeland completed her heart transplant fellowship at Indiana University in 2016. Board certified in thoracic surgery, Copeland’s desire to be part of a team giving people a chance at a new life was a major factor drawing her to heart transplantation. She is passionate about her patients’ ability to enjoy life and their families, according to a statement from the Lutheran Health Network.
Copeland works in tandem with Dr. Asim Mohammed, MD, advanced heart failure and transplant cardiologist and medical director of the Heart Transplant and Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) programs.
“Our primary job is to provide treatment to those who deal with difficult-to-control heart failure and enable them to live life to the fullest,” Mohammed said, adding, “whether this is achieved through lifestyle changes, medications, device therapy, LVAD implantation or heart transplant, our goal is to optimize management of this condition and provide each patient with the best possible outcome.
The heart transplant patient
In a statement from the Lutheran Health Network, heart transplants are reserved for patients with documented, isolated heart disease who are no longer able to function day-to-day, as well as those with life-threatening cardiac rhythm disturbances. According to the statement, Lutheran is the only hospital in northern Indiana with heart transplant and ventricular assist (VAD) services. The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cite heart disease as the leading cause of death in Indiana.
The journey to a heart transplant begins with a comprehensive evaluation process that includes medical, surgical and psychosocial evaluations. Our Medical Review Board reviews each candidate against our program’s protocols to determine if the patient is a candidate for heart transplantation, ventricular assist device (VAD) or other treatment options. A team of experienced cardiac surgeons, cardiologists, nurses and other specialists provide a comprehensive, streamlined care from the start of the treatment plan through recovery and beyond.
Additionally, patients receive emotional support and ongoing education before, during and after a heart transplant.
According to a statement from Lutheran Health Network Heart transplant technology include a variety of advances. Everything from keeping a donated heart the correct temperature during transport to keeping patients alive while awaiting transplant surgery is standard operating procedure for the transplant team.
Technological advances at Lutheran include:
• A new device that maintains donor hearts at 4-8 degrees Celsius during transport
• Bridging patients from VA ECMO (veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) to heart transplant.
• Placing intra-aortic balloon pumps (IABP) and heart pumps (temporary VADs) through the axillary artery, so patients can walk and breathe on their own while awaiting heart transplant or durable long-term VAD support.
Keeping everyone safe is our first priority. The leadership at Lutheran Hospital implemented additional safety measures early. These include designating clear COVID and non-COVID zones with dedicated staff for each.
Further, staff follow all local, regional, federal and CDC guidelines, including the appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE). These precautions and safety measures have helped the transplant team to continue working with patients.
Patients are educated about an increased risk for a severe viral infection after transplant surgery due to their immunosuppressive state from the anti-rejection medications. Additionally, many extra precautions due to COVID-19 are strongly recommended, including wearing a mask, social distancing when interacting with non-family members and when away from home. Patients are also advised not to come in contact with people who have symptoms of COVID-19. These recommendations are not only for the patient, but also for close family members. Further, telehealth visits are recommended when possible and appropriate.