Heart Transplant | Overview
The Boston Children’s Heart Transplant Program evaluates infants, children and adolescents who are potential candidates for heart transplantation. Our transplant team works seamlessly with the cardiologists and clinicians from Heart Center, specializing in the care of children with end-stage heart disease.
Since the Heart Transplant Program’s inception in 1986, we have performed more than 300 heart transplants. Our heart transplant outcomes parallel those at any other top U.S. center, despite the higher level of medical complexity of patients we routinely care for, and in many cases patients who come to Boston Children’s are able to avoid or delay the need for transplant.
Elizabeth Blume, MD, medical director of the Heart Transplant Program at Boston Children's Hospital
Treating a pediatric patient with end-stage heart disease is often very different than treating an adult. The conditions leading to transplant in a child can be different than in an adult. Together, our heart transplant team brings pediatric, academic, clinical and research expertise to the diagnosis and treatment of every child.
For every child that comes to Boston Children’s, we start from the beginning with a complete history and review of prior studies and treatments to ensure nothing has been missed. Our approach is first to focus on medical therapies, which may help improve heart function, so the need for transplantation is avoided or at least delayed. For children in immediate need of transplant, our specialized training, extensive experience and innovative tools and techniques allow us to keep children in the best possible health for the best possible outcome.
Our program offers an immunosuppressant protocol that avoids the use of chronic steroids. This means your child could avoid the side effects commonly associated with steroids—including hypertension, diabetes and obesity—and enjoy a healthier post-transplant life.
During the transition from adolescence to adulthood, when compliance often becomes a greater challenge, our team will provide the tools to help children understand the importance of adhering to their medication schedule.
We understand heart transplantation is not just a surgery. It is a journey. And our pediatric team is here to support you and your family long after your child leaves the hospital.
Interventional Catheterization Program
More than 60 percent of heart transplant evaluations are for patients with complex congenital heart disease. The remainder of the patients evaluated for transplant have a diagnosis of cardiomyopathy that has failed maximal medical management. As a result, our program makes frequent use of Boston Children’s advanced cardiac catheterization lab.
Here, we can visualize what’s happening in the heart in fine detail, and take measurements of blood pressure and flow. Our team specializing in interventional cardiology can even make a number of repairs with catheterization, like expanding narrowed passages and closing holes.
Mechanical circulatory support with Ventricular Assist Devices (VADs)
Boston Children’s is a global expert in the use of VADs for children whose hearts are failing as they wait for a donor organ. Our experience with VADs extends across all pediatric age groups and across the spectrum of pediatric heart conditions. The newer-generation VADs allows some patients to be discharged home after recovery from surgery. Some of these children with VADs can even attend school while they are waiting for heart transplant. Learn more about our VAD program.
Research and innovation
Here at the Heart Transplant Program, our treatment is informed by our research. Boston Children’s is home to the world’s most extensive research enterprise at a pediatric hospital. We also have the greatest level of partnerships with the top research, biotech and health care organizations in Boston, working together to improve children’s health.
Our cardiologists were integral in designing and conducting the multi-institutional study of the Berlin Heart®, which gained FDA approval for use in children in 2011. Boston Children’s continues to expand the field of VAD support in children by introducing new devices such as the HeartWare® HVAD allowing children to be discharged home and to resume activities of life. Learn more about our research and innovation.