The Division of Cardiac Transplantation & Circulatory Support has been a leader in the world of transplant and circulatory support surgery. The first successful cardiac transplantation in the United States was performed at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center by Dr. Denton Cooley in 1968. The cardiac transplant program was renewed at the Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke’s in 1982. Under the leadership of Dr. O.H. Frazier, a total of more than 1,300 heart transplants and over 1,200 VAD implants have been performed at THI/BSLMC, making it one of the world’s highest volume programs. Currently the program remains a leader in the field of surgery for the failing heart.
Since the early 1960s when Dr. Michael E. DeBakey obtained the first federal grant to develop an artificial heart, Baylor has remained a world leader in the surgical treatment of heart failure.
The expertise of Dr. Frazier, a professor of surgery at Baylor College of Medicine, and of previous division chief Dr. George P. Noon and colleagues, led to the development of continuous flow (non-pulsatile) LVADs, the most common in worldwide clinical use today. The pumps developed by Dr. Frazier at THI include the HeartMate, the first implantable LVAD approved by the FDA; the HeartMate II, the first continuous flow pump approved by the FDA; the HeartWare, the first centrifugal force continuous flow pump; and the Jarvik 2000, the first pump to demonstrate the feasibility of blood-washed bearings and the cornerstone of all subsequent continuous flow LVAD development. In addition, the MicroMed DeBakey pump developed by Dr. DeBakey and Dr. Noon was the first continuous flow pump implanted. The development of the total artificial heart was initiated by Dr. DeBakey in the Baylor labs in the 1950s. The SynCardia pump, the most widely used total artificial heart replacement in use today, is a direct descendent of this technology. The first non-tethered implantable total artificial heart was the AbioCor, which was developed in the THI labs under Dr. Frazier’s direction.
Today, Dr. Frazier and Dr. William E. Cohn, professor of surgery at Baylor and director of the Center for Technology Innovations at THI, are working through funding from the NIH and other supporters to develop a total artificial heart that will deliver blood by means of continuous flow rather than pulsation. This device is smaller, more reliable, and importantly, more durable than previous generations of artificial hearts. Continued NIH funding is also directed to the ongoing pulmonary hypertension studies of Dr. Noon and colleagues.
Innovation clearly remains the hallmark of the division and its visionary leaders. Fellowships in Transplant & Mechanical Circulatory Support, as well as in the TMC Biodesign program, represent important opportunities for trainees drawn from around the world to learn from these true giants of their specialty.