Houston Methodist Hospital’s transplant history begins with our first organ transplant—our first kidney transplant—performed in 1963 by legendary surgeon Michael E. DeBakey and his team. Five years later, the first heart transplant in Texas, among the first in the country, was performed at Houston Methodist, and it seized the public's imagination. Open-heart surgery itself was scarcely more than 20 years old, and the bold drama of transplantation offered hope to victims of end-stage heart failure. Between 1968 and 1969, our surgical teams performed twelve heart and two lung transplants.
Problems across the nation with rejection made overall survival rates unacceptably low, however, and a temporary pause in heart transplant activity began in 1970. Meanwhile, our corneal and kidney transplant programs continued, as did research begun in the 1960s on ventricular assist devices and the artificial heart.
By the early 1980's, better understanding of the immune system, advances in detecting rejection, and the introduction of the immunosuppressive drug cyclosporine provided the momentum needed to reconsider heart and other non-kidney organ transplants. Physicians and surgeons were also encouraged by the successes of our kidney transplant program.
So on February 22, 1984, Dr. DeBakey again led a surgical team in performing a successful heart transplant after a 14-year hiatus. Some members of this team had participated in the first heart transplants as residents.
This new era of transplantation demanded a new approach to organ transplantation in general. A faculty and administrative committee at Houston Methodist recommended the creation of a transplant center for all organs—a unique concept at the time.
The idea was to integrate existing islands of experience and expertise into a cohesive group that could successfully practice transplant medicine and surgery in an efficient, cost-effective manner without disrupting existing departmental and sectional lines. The bottom line was teamwork.
The Transplant Center was officially established in 1985, with support from the Cullen Trust for Health Care. On August 6, 1987, we became the first Medicare-designated heart transplant center in Texas and one of the first seven in the country. This designation recognized our experience and excellence in heart transplant medicine.
Today our success depends not only on worldwide medical advances, but also on our own teamwork and a network of institution-wide support. Our organization covers every aspect of patient care with fine-tuned resources. We rely heavily on a variety of social support systems, especially those provided by the Spiritual Care and Social Services departments. All of this allows us to work together for the benefit of the patient.
For more information, please call 1-888-393-3986.
Referral requests: If you’re a referring physician or a patient who would like to schedule a transplant evaluation, please call our Referral Center at 713-441-5451.