February 6, 2018

Just in time for Heart Awareness Month, Texas Children’s Hospital’s No. 1-ranked Heart Center by U.S. News & World Report launched its very own Facebook page!

Packed with information about the Heart Center’s roots, expertise and exciting future in providing top notch care, the page will provide an avenue for Heart Center medical staff and leaders to share information with various audiences, including former, current and future patients and families. The page also will allow members to provide feedback about their experiences at the Heart Center and ask questions about our level of care.

“We are excited about having a new way to reach people who want to know more about who we are and how we do things at the Texas Children’s Heart Center,” said Dr. Wayne Franklin, a cardiologist with Texas Children’s Heart Center and director of Texas Children’s Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program. “It’s also a great opportunity to help more children and families who are dealing heart problems and are looking for information.”

With more than half a century of experience in caring for children’s hearts, Texas Children’s Heart Center combines cutting-edge technology with compassion and a family-centered approach to pediatric cardiac care.

The Heart Center has a team of world-renowned leaders in pediatric cardiology, congenital heart surgery, cardiovascular anesthesiology, and cardiac critical care, performing more than 1,000 surgical procedures, 1,200 cardiac catheterizations, and having more than 26,000 patient encounters annually.

Texas Children’s is ranked No. 1 nationally in cardiology and heart surgery by U.S. News and World Report, and is also one of only four pediatric hospital’s with heart programs that are named as a Pediatric Heart Failure Institute in Texas by The Healthcare Accreditation Colloquium. The Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD) Program is also just one of 13 programs in the country to be a Comprehensive Care Center for ACHD.

Later this year, the center will move into Legacy Tower, allowing clinical staff and leaders to serve even more children with critical heart conditions from the Houston community, across Texas and throughout the nation. The 19-floor vertical expansion will house eight floors dedicated just to the Heart Center, including four new cardiac operating rooms, four cardiac catheterization labs, 48 cardiovascular intensive care unit beds, and a cardiac acute care floor.

All of this and more can be found on the Heart Center’s new Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/texaschildrensheartcenter.

“We encourage you to like the page on Facebook and share with your family and friends,” Franklin said.

December 12, 2017

For the fourth year, Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus has been named one of the 10 top children’s hospitals in the nation by The Leapfrog Group, an independent hospital watchdog organization. The award recognizes achievements in patient safety and quality and is widely acknowledged as one of the most competitive and exclusive honors an American hospital can receive.

“We are honored to again be recognized as a top performing children’s hospital by The Leapfrog Group,” said Michelle Riley-Brown president of Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus and executive vice president of Texas Children’s Hospital. “Our entire team of physicians, nurses and employees strive to provide a safe environment where we can deliver the highest quality care possible for our patients and their families. We applaud our team for their tireless work and the incredible care they provide for the children in our community every day.”

In the survey, Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus received a Top Children’s Hospital distinction and was recognized nationally alongside 45 Top General Hospitals, 18 Top Rural Hospitals, 36 Top Teaching Hospitals and only nine other Top Children’s Hospitals.

“We are proud to recognize Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus as a 2017 Leapfrog Top Hospital,” said Leah Binder, president and Chief Executive Officer of Leapfrog. “This demonstrates extraordinary dedication to patients and the local community. The entire staff and board deserve praise for putting quality first and achieving results.”

The Leapfrog Group is an organization that provides the only national, public comparison of hospitals across safety, quality and efficiency dimensions. Performance across many areas of hospital care is considered in establishing the qualifications for the award, including infection rates, maternity care, and the hospital’s capacity to prevent medication errors.

To see the full list of institutions honored as 2017 Top Hospitals, visit www.leapfroggroup.org/tophospitals.

April 11, 2017

We’ve all heard the saying, “Hard work pays off.”

That old adage certainly rings true for Texas Children’s Newborn Center leadership and staff. On April 7, Texas Children’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) became the first hospital in the state to achieve Level IV NICU designation by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

“As a Level IV NICU, our neonatal team has the resources and expertise to deliver the highest level of care available for premature and critically ill newborns,” said Texas Children’s Chief of Neonatology Dr. Gautham Suresh. “This designation helps ensure our neonates, who require highly specialized resources and 24/7 multidisciplinary care, are treated in the right level of NICU to achieve the most optimal outcomes.”

The designation process comes as a result of legislation passed in 2013 requiring Texas to establish and implement neonatal and maternal level of care designations by March 1, 2018. Texas is one of the first states requiring NICUs to undergo a site visit to verify they meet the Neonatal Levels of Care classifications as defined in the Texas Administrative Code. Completing the designation process is a requirement in order to receive Medicaid reimbursement for neonatal services by September 1, 2018.

Reaching this milestone was no easy task. The process required tremendous collaboration among NICU leadership, staff and employees, as well as various support services that help the neonatal team care for these critically ill babies including pharmacy, respiratory, physical therapy, lactation, nutrition and social services.

“In June 2016, we started a weekly work group that included members from neonatology and various ancillary departments across the organization,” said Project Manager Sohail Azeem. “We led them through the Neonatal Level IV designation guidelines impacting each area and gathered all of the necessary materials and documentation to prepare for the 2-day site visit and for the application process that followed.”

Several key requirements for Level IV NICU designation included the development of a Quality Assessment and Performance Improvement (QAPI) committee and a program plan outlining the Newborn Center’s breadth and depth of services, policies, procedures and structure for prioritizing quality improvement initiatives. While the Newborn Center already had an active quality and safety program, it was incorporated into the QAPI program.

In addition to meeting these Level IV designation requirements, Texas Children’s also participated in a rigorous survey site visit conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics NICU Verification Program in November 2016.

“The 2-day site visit included interviews with NICU nursing and physician leadership among others, as well as reviews of our policies, medical records and credentialing process,” said Newborn Center Director Heather Cherry. “Surveyors also toured all of our level NICUs and other hospital areas that support neonatal services.”

As the largest NICU in the nation, Texas Children’s is proud to receive this designation. As a Level IV NICU, Texas Children’s Newborn Center meets all level III capabilities plus has the ability to care for infants born earlier than 32 weeks gestation and weighing less than 1,500 grams, provide life support, perform advanced imaging including MRI and echocardiography and provide a full range of respiratory support, among many other criteria.

“A lot of hard work went into achieving our Level IV NICU designation and I am so proud that our teams pulled together,” said Newborn Center Vice President Judy Swanson. “This collaborative milestone solidifies our reputation in providing the highest level of neonatal care to our tiniest, most fragile patients and their families.”

February 28, 2017

Texas Children’s Pulmonary Hypertension (PH) Program recently earned national accreditation from the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA). Texas Children’s is among only six pediatric programs nationwide, and the only one in the southwest, to be awarded this high level of distinction.

“This accreditation is a recognition of the care that our program provides for children who suffer from PH,” said Texas Children’s pulmonologist Dr. Nidhy Varghese. “It is an honor to collaborate with other PH specialists across the country to advance the understanding and treatment of this lung condition that can affect heart function.”

The PHA designation means a lot for patient families like Jessica Johnson, whose 11-year-old daughter Kayleigh, was diagnosed with PH two and a half years ago.

Prior to her daughter’s diagnosis, Kayleigh experienced multiple fainting episodes with exercise. After seeing several pediatric cardiologists in their home state of Louisiana, Kayleigh finally received a diagnosis of PH, but her condition was so far advanced that she was in severe right heart failure. Since their local hospital did not have the resources to treat her condition, the family came to Texas Children’s Hospital for treatment.

“To know that my child is receiving state-of-the-art treatment reassures our decision in choosing the PH team at Texas Children’s as Kayleigh’s care facility,” Johnson said. “My husband and I are extremely happy to hear that Texas Children’s received accreditation from PHA.”

In order to be designated an accredited PH Care Center, a program must demonstrate dedication to making a proper diagnosis and have the capacity to appropriately and comprehensively manage PH patients through a set of criteria established by the PHA’s Scientific Leadership Council and PHCC Oversight Committee.

“PH is a rare disease which requires care from highly trained specialists,” said Dr. George Mallory, director of the PH Program and medical director of the Lung Transplant Program at Texas Children’s. “PHA-designated comprehensive care centers are committed to providing state-of-the-art care and therefore achieving the best possible outcomes.”

Since Kayleigh’s treatment at Texas Children’s through the PH Program, Johnson says her daughter has made great progress.

“She runs, plays, rides her bike and has gone back to taking dance lessons,” Johnson said. “Kayleigh has not had another episode since her diagnosis and she is doing many of the things she enjoyed prior to her diagnosis. I truly believe the doctors and staff at Texas Children’s saved my daughter’s life. For that, I am forever grateful.”

Texas Children’s Pulmonary Medicine is ranked No. 1 nationally by U.S. News & World Report. For more information on the PH Program, click here.

February 7, 2017

2817transplant640Transplant Services at Texas Children’s Hospital continues to prove that we are at the forefront of pediatric transplantation in the United States performing 86 transplants in 2016.

Some of last year’s highlights include:

  • The heart transplant program finished the year as the No. 1 pediatric heart transplant program in the country with 25 transplants.
  • The lung transplant program tied with St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s for the No. 1 pediatric lung transplant program in the country spot with 8 transplants.
  • The kidney transplant program ended the year as the No. 2 pediatric kidney transplant program in the country, experiencing its highest volume since the program’s inception in 1988 with 32 transplants.
  • The liver transplant program performed 21 transplants and the liver and lung programs teamed up to complete a liver/lung transplant.

Dr. John Goss, medical director of Transplant Services, said Texas Children’s Transplant Services continues to earn its reputation as one of the best pediatric transplant programs in the country.

“I believe our success is a testimony to the skill and commitment of our multidisciplinary team, which offers an interdisciplinary approach to all aspects of the transplant process, from initial referral to hospitalization and outpatient management,” Goss said. “We also work closely with patients, families and referring physicians to help make the evaluation process as convenient and efficient as possible.”

Goss added that the success of Texas Children’s transplant program would not be possible without the gifts from our selfless donors and their families.

“They are the ones responsible for providing our patients with a second chance at life,” he said. “We are forever grateful for their unwavering kindness.”

To learn more about Texas Children’s Transplant Services, click here.

December 20, 2016

122116physiciansurveyinside640Texas Children’s shined in a recent survey conducted by the Harris County Medical Society to determine physicians’ perspectives and satisfaction in their relationships with local hospitals. More than 2,000 physicians took the survey, providing results for 30 hospitals in the Greater Houston area.

When asked to rate their overall satisfaction with each of those hospitals, 87 percent rated Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus at the top of their satisfaction list. Texas Children’s Hospital medical center campus was next with 83 percent of physicians giving the hospital high satisfaction marks.

Reputation is another area where the Texas Children’s system stood apart from the rest. When asked how physicians rated the overall reputation of each health system represented in the survey, 91 percent placed Texas Children’s at the helm.

“The results of this survey are incredible and speak to the superb quality of work we do across our entire system each and every day,” said President and CEO Mark A. Wallace. “They also are a testament to the relationships we have built and continue to strengthen with physicians in Houston and beyond.”

The purpose of the survey, according to Harris County Medical Society President Dr. Kimberly Monday, is to identify areas of strength and areas of opportunity for improvement in physician/hospital relationships that will create the opportunity for further discussion and will ultimately enhance collective efforts to improve patient care in the Houston area.

“These results will give physicians and hospital leaders a clear picture of the areas where the most work needs to be done,” Monday said. “These issues are too important to the quality of care we deliver to our patients to be dismissed, and we want to show hospital administrators that physicians are eager to work with them to make meaningful improvements to hospital practices and policies.”

Monday added that the impetus for the study was the decision on behalf of the federal government to tie Medicare payments to long-term patient outcomes instead of process. As physicians and hospitals become financially tied to actual outcomes, she said, doctors must know which hospitals provide a culture of quality and safety.

Conducted from May 8 to June 20, the Harris County Medical Society survey asked questions regarding:

  • Safety of medical care
  • Relationships between hospital administration and physicians
  • Hospital policies affecting care
  • Medical staff issues and bylaws
  • Electronic medical records

Texas Children’s system, Texas Children’s Hospital and Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus led several categories in the survey as well and made the top 5 or top 10 list in many others, including leadership and leadership training opportunities, adequate nursing staff and quality of support staff.

“It’s good to hear our partnering physicians view us in such a positive light,” said Matt Schaefer, West Campus president. “Those relationships are extremely important to what we do, which is ensuring the best medical care to our patients and their families.”

Click the links below to view the results of the survey:

2016 Harris County Medical Society physician survey – Texas Children’s Hospital
2016 Harris County Medical Society physician survey – Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus
2016 Harris County Medical Society physician satisfaction survey

November 29, 2016

113016surgicaloncologyinside250Texas Children’s Cancer Center is renowned for extraordinary care and outcomes and is ranked No. 2 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. An important part of the program’s success is the multidisciplinary care children here receive – particularly in the area of surgical oncology. Many solid tumors – such as liver tumors, bone tumors, neuroblastomas and sarcomas – require complete surgical removal. Chemotherapy and radiation may be used to shrink the size of the tumor or to keep it from coming back after surgery, but surgical removal is a critical step for children with these cancers. In these cases, oncologists and surgical oncologists must work together to carefully plot the course of treatment and time the surgery just right to give young patients the very best chance at a cancer-free life.

Patient diagnosed with hepatoblastoma

In September 2015, Dr. Maria Garcia Fernandez, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, and Dr. Fernando Padilla, a family practitioner, discovered a mass in their 17-month-old baby Victoria’s abdomen. Fearing the worst, they immediately contacted the Solid Tumor Program at Texas Children’s Hospital, where Victoria was promptly evaluated and diagnosed with stage 3 hepatoblastoma.

Hepatoblastoma is a relatively rare type of childhood cancer, with approximately 200 cases diagnosed per year in the country. Usually occurring in children under the age of 5, there are often no initial symptoms other than the mass.

“Hepatoblastomas tend to present very large, because the liver is tucked under the ribs so the mass is hard to feel,” said Dr. Sanjeev Vasudevan, Victoria’s surgical oncologist specializing in liver surgery. “You have to remove the side of the liver that the tumor inhabits without damaging the normal side and still get the tumor completely out.”

The stakes for this type of surgery couldn’t be higher.

“If you attempt to remove the mass and wind up leaving some of it behind, the prognosis for the child becomes much more serious,” Vasudevan said. “Basically, if you can’t guarantee a negative-margin resection, it’s safer to skip the attempt and go straight to liver transplantation.”

Aggressive chemotherapy treatment

At the time of diagnosis, Victoria’s tumor was 6 cm in diameter and covered both sides of her liver. She had to undergo an aggressive regimen of chemotherapy to see if resection would be an option, or if transplant would be required.

“We were devastated,” Fernandez said. “We didn’t know if the chemotherapy would work, what kind of toll it would take on her, or if she’d have to have a transplant and deal with that her whole life. But, what we did know was that Texas Children’s was the best possible place for us to be. They had the numbers. They had the best track record for treating this type of cancer, whether it’s from an oncology perspective or surgery or transplant or intensive care.”

Only a handful of major centers in the country are equipped to take a case like Victoria’s. Of the 200 cases diagnosed in the U.S. annually, Texas Children’s treats approximately 10 percent of them.

“In addition to a strong cancer program, you need to have pediatric ICUs and intensivists, surgical expertise, anesthesia and pain services, all for children under the age of 5 – and enough volume to do it well and have good outcomes,” Vasudevan said.

Victoria underwent four intense cycles of chemotherapy. Each time, she was admitted back to the hospital for about a week, fighting fever, neutropenia and RSV. Knowing that four cycles was probably as much as the petite toddler could take, Victoria’s physicians were hoping to take her for surgery after one or two rounds. After the third cycle, she was placed on the transplant list briefly before scans finally showed a glimmer of hope. Victoria underwent a fourth cycle and was scanned again, and the team was delighted to find a margin of healthy tissue that made surgery possible.

“This entire team of oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, surgeons and transplant surgeons met so many times and discussed her case, all diligently trying to figure out what was best for Victoria,” Fernandez said. “It showed tremendous perseverance and dedication, and I will never forget that as long as I live.”

Surgical tumor removal

On January 6, 2016, Victoria went in for surgery, and she didn’t come out for more than nine hours. The vicinity of the tumor to the main portal vein, the primary blood supply to the liver, was close and required special attention to ensure that the tumor was completely removed.

“When operating on the liver, there is a high risk of disrupting the blood vessels and the bile ducts,” Vasudevan said. “What makes it really complicated is the fact that the liver is brown and completely opaque, and you can’t see the tumor. You rely on ultrasound guidance and external cues, the rest is up to feel and experience.”

Victoria’s procedure went smoothly. Vasudevan removed the tumor and the left lobe and was able to preserve about 60 percent of her liver.

There is a 30 percent chance of liver insufficiency post surgery, but after four or five days, the liver begins to regenerate and compensate for its loss. Victoria was stable and extubated by the next morning, and she went on to have two more cycles of chemotherapy to ensure no microscopic seeding had occurred. She has since celebrated her second birthday and returned to her normal, vibrant self.

Although Victoria is still checked regularly for signs of recurrence, overall her prognosis is excellent. She has an approximately 90 percent chance of an event-free, five-year survival.

“This is exactly why I got into this field,” Vasudevan said. “It’s an amazingly rewarding thing to do. Cancer is so devastating, in general, and to see a small 1- or 2-year-old child robbed of her whole life…that’s motivation enough for me.”

For more information about our Surgical Oncology Program, click here.