Heart transplant patients who receive new organs at hospitals that perform at least nine procedures a year are much more likely than others to survive at least 10 years after their operations, new Johns Hopkins research suggests.
Younger patients – under the age of 55 – also fare better, researchers found.
The study, published in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery, examined the records of more than 22,000 American adults who got new hearts between 1987 and 1999. Investigators found about half were still alive a decade after being transplanted and further analysis identified factors that appear to predict at least 10 years of life after the operations.
Patients 55 and younger had a 24 percent greater chance of 10-year survival than older patients. Those treated at hospitals performing nine or more heart transplants a year had a 31 percent greater chance of 10-year survival than those at lower volume centers. And white patients were 35 percent more likely to survive a decade than minority patients.
Patients at high-volume centers may fare better because their surgeons have more experience with heart transplants, and the staff and facilities are likely better equipped to manage the complex post-operative care, researchers said.
"There are 2,000 to 2,500 heart transplants a year in the U.S. and many people die waiting," said Dr. Arman Kilic, lead study author and a surgical resident at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. "We have to be very smart about how to allocate scarce organs, and our research suggests we can predict which patients will live longer with a new heart."