Houston hospital suspends heart transplants after recent deaths: 7 things to know

Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center in Houston, part of Englewood, Colo.-based Catholic Health Initiatives, put its heart transplant program on a 14-day inactive status June 1, according to ProPublica.

Here are seven things to know:

1. The hospital will turn away all donor hearts while the transplant program is suspended. St. Luke's officials decided to pause the program after a recent investigative report by ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle revealed the hospital's heart transplant survival rate ranks near the bottom nationally, and at least three of nine patients who received heart transplants at the hospital so far in 2018 have died.

2. "We greatly respect and value the trust patients and their families have placed in us over the years, and believe this temporary pause will serve their best interests," Doug Lawson, CEO of CHI Texas Division, said in a written statement to ProPublica. "Although extensive reviews are conducted on each unsuccessful transplant, the recent patient outcomes deserve an in-depth review before we move forward with the program. Our prayers are with the families, as well as all those on the waiting list."

3. The hospital temporarily suspended its heart transplant program about two weeks after ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle reported the program's high volume of transplants in recent years resulted in deaths and unusual complications. The program has also lost several top physicians in recent years, according to the report.

4. Eighty-five percent of patients who received a new heart at St. Luke's between the summer of 2014 and the end of 2016 survived, compared to 91.4 percent nationally, according to ProPublica, which cited data from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients.

5. St. Luke's and Baylor College of Medicine officials told ProPublica improvements were made to the hospital's heart transplant program after a string of deaths in 2015, and the program's one-year survival rate after heart transplants reached 94 percent in 2016 and 2017.

6. At least three of the nine patients who received heart transplants at St. Luke's since the beginning of this year have died, according to ProPublica, which cited information provided by the hospital, data from the United Network for Organ Sharing and interviews with patients' family members.

7. St. Luke's launched a website, HeartTransplantFacts.org, to counter the findings included in the original investigative report by ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle. On June 1, the site was replaced with a notice about the heart transplant program's temporary inactive status.

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