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No decision yet at UTMC to do heart transplants

Faculty split on need to revive the program

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The University of Toledo Medical Center is close to offering pancreatic, small bowel, and bone marrow transplants, but officials have yet to decide whether to revive the hospital’s heart transplant program.

Kidney transplants have long been offered at the former Medical College of Ohio, where heart transplants also were performed until about six years ago. UTMC is the only northwest Ohio hospital that does organ transplants.

UTMC is adding implantable devices to treat heart-failure patients and putting staff in place for a heart-transplant program, but a final decision on whether to perform them has not been made, said Dr. Jeffrey Gold, UT chancellor, executive vice president for biosciences and health affairs, and medical college dean.

“There are some members of the faculty who believe we should do them,” Dr. Gold said. “There are some members of the faculty who believe this is not the right time.”

UTMC has recruited a cardiac surgeon and a cardiologist specializing in heart failure; both are certified by the United Network for Organ Sharing, Dr. Gold said. Two years ago, UTMC opened its $2.8 million Heart and Vascular Center. Professorship positions for the two doctors were created with endowments.

A heart-transplant program may be done in collaboration with another institution, Dr. Gold said.

Heart transplants are performed at hospitals in Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, as well as Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Grand Rapids, Mich., according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.

There are 171 Ohioans on the national transplant waiting list for hearts and four needing heart and lung transplants, a fraction of the 2,603 patients awaiting kidney transplants, by far the most common need, according to the latest statistics from Life Connection of Ohio.

The number of Ohioans needing kidney transplants also exceeds the 38 people awaiting pancreas transplants, 85 for kidney and pancreas, and four for intestine. For all organs, 3,432 Ohioans are awaiting transplants, including 237 at UTMC needing kidney transplants, according to Life Connection of Ohio.

Dr. David Heidt, a former chief resident at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, was recently hired to head up a pancreatic islet cell and small-bowel transplantation program at UTMC, which likely will be in place within a year, Dr. Gold said.

A bone-marrow transplant program at UTMC, meanwhile, is being considered in partnership with another institution, Dr. Gold said. The decision has been made to hold off on adding liver transplants at the hospital, he said.

Offering more than just kidney transplants means more patients will not have to leave northwest Ohio for treatment, Dr. Gold said. “First of all, we think the community needs them,” he said.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at: jmckinnon@theblade.com or 419-724-6087.

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