KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Cheney Surgery Sparks Discussion Of Age And Heart Transplants

Over the weekend, former Vice President Dick Cheney, who is 71, received a new heart after he had waited 20 months.

NPR: Cheney Operation Underscores Heart Transplant Issues
[H]eart transplant recipients are typically matched with donors with a similar body size and the same blood type. Hearts are in short supply and more than 3,000 people are on the waiting list. So hearts generally go to the sickest person who's closest geographically and has been waiting the longest. … In the Washington area, the median waiting time is nine months. Cheney waited 20 months, an aide said in a statement (Stein, 3/26).

Bloomberg: Cheney Transplant at 71 Shows Trend Threatening Younger Patients
Medical advances have made it increasingly common for older Americans such as Dick Cheney to receive heart transplants, extending their lives. The trend may make it more difficult for younger patients as aging Baby Boomers compete for available organs, top cardiologists say. ... Last year, 2,322 heart transplants were performed, including 332 among people older than 65, or about 15 percent, said Joel Newman, a spokesman for the United Network for Organ Sharing, or UNOS, which matches patients to organs (Fay Cortez, 3/26).

MedPage Today: Cheney Transplant Turns Focus to Age and HF Treatments
Clinicians contacted by ABC News and MedPage Today largely agreed that his receipt of an LVAD [left ventricular assist device] -- the HeartMate II -- enhanced the public's awareness of that treatment option, and his 20-month survival, combined with Saturday's transplant is likely to spark renewed enthusiasm for interventions aimed at extending the lives of patients with advanced heart failure (Neale, 3/25).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.