The Montreal Heart Institute celebrates its 500th heart transplant

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October 31, 2019

The Montreal Heart Institute is proud to announce that the milestone of 500 heart transplants has been successfully completed recently. Since the first Canadian heart transplant was performed in 1968, the ultraspecialized hospital in cardiology has always refined its techniques. It is time to celebrate this new milestone in its history.

“This 500th heart transplant represents an important milestone for the Montreal Heart Institute,” explains Mélanie La Couture, President and CEO of the MHI. “If the first heart transplant has allowed the Institute to become a world reference in fighting cardiovascular disease, this historic milestone reaffirms the strength of our commitment to Dr. Paul David’s primary mission, which is to be the finest in cardiology here in Montreal,” she added.

“This milestone recognizes the excellence of the Montreal Heart Institute and its contribution towards organ donation. Seventeen years ago, I underwent a heart transplantation and I will forever be indebted to them,” says Jean Gravel, Chairman of Transplant Québec’s Board of Directors. “I would also like to recognize the generosity of donors and their families who have helped to save the 500 lives we are celebrating today,” he concluded. On that occasion, Transplant Québec awarded Sylvain Bédard, a double heart transplant recipient, the 2019 Ambassador Award in recognition of his commitment in the organ donation cause.

Then and Now

On May 31st, 1968, the first heart transplant in Canada was performed at the Montreal Heart Institute. This first surgery, unprecedented in the history of Canadian medicine, was performed only a few months after the first heart transplant in the world. Shortly after, cardiac transplantations were stopped worldwide due to rejection problems among patients. Innovations in pharmacology, including the introduction of immunosuppressants, led to a resumption of heart transplants in the 1980s and a significant decrease in rejections.

“The technical fundamentals of heart transplantation are still very similar to those used during the very first transplant,” explains Dr. Normand Racine, cardiologist and medical director of the heart transplant program at the MHI. “Medicine has made tremendous progress that now allows us to choose heart transplantation as a medical approach for more patients and to have an excellent 84% success rate in patient survival after one year,” he continues.

Heart transplant program

By creating the heart transplant program in 1983 and the ventricular assistance program in 1987, the Montreal Heart Institute had access to a state-of-the-art team and expertise to coordinate this type of highly specialized activity. Nowadays, between 12 and 15 heart transplants are performed there every year.  More than 85 implantations of mechanical cardiac support systems have been performed since the program’s inception.

Increase in prevalence of heart failure

Cardiovascular disease continues to be the first leading cause of death in the world and the leading cause of death among women in Canada. As the population ages and the treatment of hypertension and heart attack improves, the prevalence of heart failure is increasing.  As a result, the number of patients requiring a possible heart transplant is rising.

Since the introduction of the mechanical support program in 2012, ventricular assist devices, such as HeartMate II and HeartMate III, are increasingly being used as a bridge towards transplantation and as a permanent solution for the treatment of terminal heart failure. For patients requiring heart transplants, the average waiting time in Quebec is 200 days.

About the Montreal Heart Institute

Founded in 1954 by Dr. Paul David, the Montreal Heart Institute has successfully focused on its primary mission: to aim for the highest standards of excellence in the field of cardiovascular medicine. Over the years, the MHI has developed its leadership in clinical and basic research as well as ultraspecialized care, professional training and prevention. Building on this expertise, the MHI has become one of the world’s three best cardiology centers. Among its leading projects, the MHI has implemented the first Cardiovascular Prevention Centre in Canada, Canada’s first simulation-based education program exclusively dedicated to cardiology as well as a cardiovascular genetics center. The MHI is affiliated with the Université de Montréal and has more than 2,000 employees, including 245 doctors and over 85 researchers.

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