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Published in CenterView on April 15, 2013
UMMC’s congenital heart surgery team
UMMC’s congenital heart surgery team

Heart surgery program reaches 1,000 successful operations in only three years

By Jen Hospodor

Zero to 60 in three seconds.
That phrase usually applies only to the fastest cars in the world. But it also fits the warp-speed growth and success of Batson Children’s Hospital’s congenital heart surgery program.

After struggling for years to establish a comprehensive children’s heart surgery program, the hospital’s effort gained momentum in April 2010 with the arrival of Dr. Jorge Salazar as chief of the pediatric and congenital heart surgery program. The program will reach full-speed this month when it celebrates its three-year anniversary with its 1,000th operation and excellent outcomes.

“This has been a multidisciplinary effort,” said Salazar, associate professor of surgery and co-director of the Children’s Heart Center. “Only because of the hard work and sacrifice of our team have these outcomes been possible.”

The team to which Salazar refers has been bolstered by Dr. Mary Taylor, professor of pediatrics, chief of the Division of Pediatric Critical Care and co-director of the Children’s Heart Center, who has spent the two years since her arrival at the University of Mississippi Medical Center building the team that cares for these patients post-operatively. Together, she and Salazar have expanded the heart team to more than 100 faculty and staff members with a wide range of specialties.

“The struggle and perseverance our team went through to build the heart program is a huge accomplishment,” said Guy Giesecke, CEO of Batson Children’s Hospital.

Batson Children’s Hospital previously had a robust pediatric heart surgery program, but the loss of some key team members meant that many Mississippi children with congenital heart defects were forced to travel to other states to get those defects repaired. Since Salazar’s arrival, no patients have been sent out of state.

“Our leadership knew that a top children’s hospital has to have an excellent heart program,” said Giesecke. “As the only children’s hospital in Mississippi, we knew it did not make sense for children and families to travel out of state to places like Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. for cardiac surgery and care.” 

During the program’s rapid growth, the heart team met another important measure of success. While caring for all children with heart defects – even those that other heart centers turned away – the team hit patient outcome numbers rivaling the country’s largest and most established heart programs.

Two members of the team, Dr. Daniel DiBardino, assistant professor of medicine and congenital heart surgeon, and nurse Emily Taylor, keep patient outcome numbers updated in the Society of Thoracic Surgeons Congenital Heart Surgery Database. Approximately 80 percent of the country’s congenital heart surgery programs use the database as a benchmarking tool.

When they analyzed outcome data for 2012, they found the program has a hospital discharge mortality rate of less than 1.5 percent.

“Very few programs achieve less than 2 percent discharge mortality, particularly when you factor in the case complexity we see here in Mississippi,” said DiBardino, who joined the team in July 2011. “Given the youth of the program, it is almost inconceivable.”

Salazar noted that the state has reason to be proud.

“Mississippi is now taking care of its own,” he said. “With a dedicated team of nurses, therapists, technicians, doctors and administrators, we can treat even the most complex heart defects and give children and families hope.” (enlarge image)

The Congenital Heart

Saturday April 27, 2013
University of Mississippi Medical Center

Presented by
Children’s Heart Center
The Mississippi Radiological Society