OHSU heart transplant deaths rose before program shut down

The heart transplant program at Oregon Health & Science University Hospital saw a spike in patient deaths in the year before the program's suspension, reports The Oregonian.

 Six things to know:

1. The publication cited data from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, which shows OHSU's transplant mortality rate started to increase in 2017. A July 2019 report found OHSU patients who underwent a transplant in the last two years had a 67 percent higher risk of dying within 12 months of surgery than patients at similar programs.

2. Portland, Ore.-based OHSU suspended its heart transplant program in August 2018 after all four of the program's cardiologists resigned for unspecified reasons.

3. Tim Stevens, BSN, RN, an independent consultant brought in to evaluate OHSU's transplant program, said he did not find a connection between the increase in deaths and how the program functioned or the cardiologists' departures.

4. Mr. Stevens added that many of the 2017 deaths were due to transplant patients' physiological characteristics. He said the program has since developed stricter criteria for who it will accept for transplant surgeries.

5. OHSU's voluntary deactivation of the transplant program was "entirely unrelated" to the deaths in 2017, an OHSU spokesperson told Becker's via email. 

"In fact, in 2018, before our Heart Transplant Program was temporarily deactivated, the one-year survival rate for patients who received heart transplants at OHSU was 100 percent," the spokesperson said. "In other words, our heart transplant program exceeded national benchmarks in providing safe, high-quality care."

6. OHSU plans to reactivate its heart transplant program in August. The hospital has hired three of five cardiologists necessary to staff the program.

To view The Oregonian's full report, click here.

Editor's note: This article was updated July 16 at 4:45 p.m. to provide additional information from OHSU.

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