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Offering Heart Failure Patients Without Hope a Second Chance

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A Q&A with Dr. Eman Hamad

Posted by Temple Heart & Vascular Institute

Eman Hamad, MD

Dr. Eman Hamad is the physician advanced heart failure patients see when their only remaining treatment options are a transplant or a mechanical heart pump. As Director of Temple’s Advanced Heart Failure & Transplant Program and Medical Director of the Mechanical Circulatory Support Program, Dr. Hamad can offer these patients options that most hospitals cannot. Her work is saving lives.

Q: Temple is more flexible than other hospitals when it comes to heart transplantation candidate selection. Why is that?

Dr. Hamad: We don’t believe in having a strict cutoff or a strict set of criteria when it comes to listing patients for heart transplants. Instead, we evaluate each patient when they come in and make individual decisions based on their unique clinical and personal history. We do this because we think it’s the right thing to do.

Many of these patients have been turned down for a heart transplant or a mechanical heart pump by other hospitals. As a result, they are out of options.

Q: In what areas are you flexible?

Dr. Hamad: Often, other hospitals may shy away from patients they determine to be “high-risk." These patients may have medical problems with multiple organs. They may have had other surgeries or radiation therapy in the past. They may have what we call “high antibody levels,” which means their donor pool is very small.

We’re able to take many of these higher-risk patients because we work with them all the time and we have become very good at what we do. Our transplant survival rate of 85.0% reflects that. We also do not have a specific age cutoff.

Q: Temple’s transplant survival rates are the highest in the Philadelphia region by far. How do you achieve those results when you take these higher-risk patients?

Dr. Hamad: Our survival rate of 85.0% is amazing, and there are a few reasons we have achieved that. First, we are one of the most experienced heart transplant centers in the country. We have a level of expertise here that allows us to manage all types of patients, including those that are higher risk.

Q: Temple is the fastest list-to-transplant in the Philadelphia region by far. How do you achieve that?

Dr. Hamad: We evaluate donor hearts differently than other hospitals. We look very closely at these hearts and are willing to take higher-risk organs because we know we have the experience and management plan in place to produce great outcomes.

We understand that they are complex patients with other medical issues. We make a plan to manage them post-surgery and post-discharge.

Q: So it’s not an exaggeration to say you are giving patients without hope a second chance.

Dr. Hamad: That’s true. It’s a sad reality that without a transplant or a mechanical heart pump, most patients with end-stage heart failure will live no longer than 6 months. These individuals should not be automatically shut out because they didn’t meet a certain set of criteria.

Q: The work you and your team are doing is changing lives.

Dr. Hamad: It really is. Our patients comment all the time that they have a new life. They tell us how they’re back to doing things they always wanted to do but couldn’t. I always tell them that they will feel born again after a transplant or when they receive a heart pump.

And they come back and tell us stories about how they are attending graduations and weddings they never thought they would see. It’s very gratifying.

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Editor's Note: This blog was updated on August 5, 2021, to reflect the latest heart transplant data from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients report.

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