2,000 Heart Operations in Five Years at Dell Children’s Heart Program

Pictured above: Holtin, Dell Children’s Heart Patient

February 7th marks the beginning of Congenital Heart Defect Week, and falls within Heart Month, a perfect opportunity to reflect back on an incredible first five years of the groundbreaking Texas Center for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease at Dell Children’s Medical Center.

Under the visionary leadership of Dr. Charles D. Fraser Jr., who was recently featured in this extensive article in the Austin American Statesman, the heart program at Dell Children’s has far surpassed initial expectations, solidifying its position as a global hub for pediatric cardiac care.

In this short time, Dell Children’s has become a beacon of hope for families grappling with complex heart conditions, attracting patients not just from across Texas but also from the United States, Europe, South America, and Africa. Dr. Fraser’s strategic vision has led to the program’s rapid expansion, with 30 heart transplants performed and numerous medical milestones achieved.

The heart program’s success is underscored by its willingness to take on challenging cases that other centers might shy away from. Dr. Fraser’s emphasis on being an “aggressive program” reflects a commitment to providing potentially lifesaving treatments without being constrained by external limitations.

The program’s list of firsts includes the introduction of a left ventricular assist device in 2019, the first heart transplant in 2020, and the groundbreaking achievement of a partial heart transplant in 2023. Dell Children’s has continually built on these successes, showcasing a dedication to innovation and pushing the boundaries of pediatric cardiac care.

In response to the growing demand, Dell Children’s is set to double its cardiac intensive care unit beds from 24 to 48, illustrating its commitment to providing top-notch care for a broader patient population.

The collaboration between pediatric and adult cardiac care, exemplified by the Institute for Cardiovascular Health, which was established in 2022, has further elevated Dell Children’s as a comprehensive center for cardiovascular care. This joint project between Dell Medical School’s UT Health Austin and the Ascension Texas hospital system fosters information sharing and collaboration between experts in both fields, promising advancements in clinical trials, and research.

As Dell Children’s continues to gain national recognition, the focus remains on fostering a culture of creative thinking and innovation. The program’s doctors are becoming featured speakers, and there’s room for expanded research initiatives, exemplified by Dr. Carlos Mery’s use of data to enhance medical procedures and clinical outcomes.

The Austin American Statesman article includes a heartwarming success story of Oliver Aleman, an 8-year-old who, after facing multiple heart surgeries, found hope and healing through a heart transplant at Dell Children’s. Oliver’s story encapsulates the transformative impact of the heart program, and is a testament to the power of innovation, collaboration, and compassionate care.

None of these accomplishments would be possible without your support. When we set out to ensure no family would ever have to leave home for care, regardless of diagnosis, we were awed by the community’s generosity and commitment to achieving this goal.

It’s been an exceptional five years and we can’t wait to see what the next five years will bring!