University Hospitals Recruits Top Cardiac Surgeon from UK as Addition to Growing Transplant Program

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UH Transplant Institute completes record year, looks to future

Yasir Abu-Omar, MD, DPhil Yasir Abu-Omar, MD, DPhil

University Hospitals (UH) has named Yasir Abu-Omar, MD, DPhil, as Director of Cardiothoracic Transplantation at UH Cleveland Medical Center in conjunction with both the UH Transplant Institute and the UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute.

Dr. Abu-Omar is a cardiac surgeon who specializes in cardiothoracic transplantation, mechanical circulatory support and complex valve surgery including mitral valve repair and minimally-invasive surgery. Dr. Abu-Omar is considered a leading heart transplant surgeon in the United Kingdom and joins UH from the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, England.

“I saw the move to University Hospitals in Cleveland as a rewarding opportunity, to be part of this growing and forward-looking program for both cardiac surgery and transplantation,” said Dr. Abu-Omar. “I want to lend my expertise and experience to further grow, improve and innovate within the heart and lung transplant services as well as mechanical support at UH.”

Dr. Abu-Omar comes to UH at a time of strengthening for its transplant program. In 2019, the UH Transplant Institute completed 195 organ transplants, the largest volume in the hospital’s history. Surgeons transplanted 19 hearts last year, a record for the program. With the addition of Dr. Abu-Omar, UH projects an increased transplant volume for years to come.

“The addition of Dr. Abu-Omar solidifies the UH Transplant Institute as a leader in the field of thoracic transplantation,” said Kenneth Chavin, MD, PhD, Director, UH Transplant Institute. “Looking to the future, we are well-positioned to successfully implement the use of organs procured after donation after circulatory death (DCD)”.

Royal Papworth Hospital is the largest cardiothoracic transplant program in the UK and one of the largest in Europe. It is also home to the largest heart transplant program from DCD donors in the world. By the end of 2019 they completed 77 DCD heart transplants, many of them performed by Dr. Abu-Omar.

Routinely, a donor heart comes from someone who is considered braindead. The donor heart is still beating inside the body until the moment of retrieval and is transported to the recipient in cold storage.

The DCD technique utilizes hearts that have stopped beating and reanimates them outside the donor’s body to begin beating once again. This is usually done by placing the heart on the TransMedics Organ Care System, a transportable machine which pumps blood through the heart. The organ remains on the system, beating, until it gets to the recipient. When it’s time, the heart is implanted through a standard heart transplant procedure.

There’s a waiting list for hearts, because of a shortage of donors. The Organ Care System is expected to gain FDA approval in the next few months. Its use could potentially make more hearts available for transplant. Donor hearts on the Organ Care System can also travel farther. Since the heart is beating during transport, travel time increases to more than five hours as opposed to two or three hours with only cold storage.

Along with leading the heart transplant and mechanical circulatory support programs at Royal Papworth Hospital, Dr. Abu-Omar led the minimally-invasive mitral valve repair program. He has a special interest in complex heart valve surgery and minimally-invasive procedures.

“Dr. Abu-Omar’s knowledge, experience and passion strengthen our team of world-wide experts in the fields of heart failure and minimally-invasive procedures,” said Marco Costa, MD, PhD, MBA, President, UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute. “With his leadership, we will continue to not only deliver today’s care with the highest quality, but establish the therapies of tomorrow.

Dr. Abu-Omar received his medical degree from Aberdeen University in the UK. Before arriving at Royal Papworth, he underwent training in cardiothoracic surgery at hospitals in London and Oxford. Dr. Abu-Omar also has a Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) from the University of Oxford.

“Our duty as doctors is to help people,” he said. “Heart transplant is the best known treatment for patients with end stage heart failure. What really drives me is the knowledge that so many patients are waiting for this gift of life, and my duty with the incredibly dedicated transplant team here at UH, is to do our best to provide timely access of organ transplantation to better the lives of these people.”

Dr. Abu-Omar is now seeing patients at UH Cleveland Medical Center and can be contacted at 216-553-1439.

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