BOSTON – Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) is proud to announce that its Heart Transplant Program successfully completed its 750th transplant on Sunday, April 30. Since the hospital’s first heart transplant in 1985, the Heart Transplant Program has grown into the highest annual volume program in New England. The program celebrated its 500th transplant in 2018, 33 years after its inception, and has reached this milestone of 750 transplants just five years later. The program performed 54 transplants in 2022.
“I am proud of how far the Mass General Hospital Heart Transplant Program has advanced in recent years. Seven years ago, MGH averaged 15 transplants yearly and now we have more than tripled in annual volume despite relatively unchanged overall international rates of heart transplantation. Our post-transplant patient survival rates have also reached all-time highs. The success of the program is attributable to the commitment of every single team member toward our goal of extending patients’ length and quality of life through transplantation,” said Gregory Lewis, MD, Medical Director of the Heart Transplant Program.
The recipient of transplant No. 750 is Erica Raspante. Raspante, 40, has familial dilated cardiomyopathy, a genetic form of cardiomyopathy that first presented symptoms in her mid-20s. Her older brother also lives with this condition and underwent a heart transplant at MGH in February 2020.
After Ms. Raspante was admitted, tests and scans prior to receiving the transplant revealed she had a pre-cancerous tumor on her appendix, which was completely removed 10 days before the transplant. After the tumor was removed, Ms. Raspante was cleared to receive a transplant.
“I knew this was my goal. I wasn’t going to survive without a heart transplant, and it’s been a long time coming. It’s a whirlwind of emotions. I know how blessed I am to receive a new heart,” Raspante said.
The heart Ms. Raspante received was procured through a method called Donation After Circulatory Death (DCD). Most heart donations occur when a patient is clinically brain dead, but with DCD hearts, the donor has suffered an irreversible fatal injury and, upon agreement from the donor family, the organ is procured when life support is withdrawn. The heart is then placed on a perfusion pump until it is transplanted into the recipient. The use of DCD hearts has been shown to increase the organ donor pool, thus reducing waitlist time and mortality.
Dr. David D’Alessandro, MD, Surgical Director of the Heart Transplant Program, performed Ms. Raspante’s transplant procedure, which lasted approximately four hours. Dr. D’Alessandro also performed Ms. Raspante’s brother’s transplant with a DCD heart.
“I think it’s exciting that we’re able to offer this transplant option to more and more people. It’s rewarding to have this type of longitudinal care with families,” Dr. D’Alessandro said.
Ms. Raspante expressed gratitude toward the donor family for providing her with a new heart, and to her medical team at MGH for exceptional round-the-clock care. She is now looking forward to spending time with her husband and nine-year-old son, returning to work, and becoming an advocate for organ donation.
“I don’t think there are ever enough words to say to someone for giving me a second chance at life because they lost someone that they loved. This is a gift that they’ve given me. I have a second chance with my son and my family and the heart transplant team here at MGH is indescribable. Dr. Lewis and Dr. D’Alessandro are amazing doctors and the nurses here are some of the best I’ve ever seen,” she said.
About the Massachusetts General Hospital
Massachusetts General Hospital, founded in 1811, is the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. The Mass General Research Institute conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the nation, with annual research operations of more than $1 billion and comprises more than 9,500 researchers working across more than 30 institutes, centers and departments. In July 2022, Mass General was named #8 in the U.S. News & World Report list of "America’s Best Hospitals." MGH is a founding member of the Mass General Brigham healthcare system.