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Home page > Sheba HospitalsThe Acute Care HospitalDivision of SurgeryDepartment of Cardiac Surgery > The Heart Transplantation Unit
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Department of Cardiac Surgery
The Heart Transplantation Unit

The Heart Transplantation Unit of the Department of Cardiac Surgery is the largest of its kind in Israel. Since 1992, we have performed more than 150 heart transplantations with success rates rivaling the best and most advanced Western medical centers. Currently more than 70% of all heart transplants in Israel are listed with us.


Since 1994 our unit has been the first unit of its kind in Israel providing the option of Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) implantation to candidates for heart transplantation who deteriorate rapidly while waiting for their transplant and face imminent risk of sudden death. As of today our unit is still the most active in Israel in this field, with some 40 patients having been bridged so far to heart transplantation. With the fully implanted Left VAD, some of these patients were discharged from hospital and returned to their normal daily activities while waiting for transplant.


We conduct intensive basic science research projects in which novel materials, called anti-freeze proteins, are being tested as potential additives to the preservation solution of the donated hearts, which are preserved at subzero temperatures. These proteins, extracted from the blood of arctic fish who survive in subzero temperatures, enable the preservation time hearts to 24 hours, far beyond the 4 hour preservation time today.


Unit at a Glance
Number of Transplants - 150

Director - Prof. Jacob Lavee

Prof. Jacob Lavee received his M.D. magna cum laude degree from the Tel Aviv University School Of Medicine, Israel, in 1977 and was subsequently trained in cardiothoracic surgery at the Sheba Medical Center. In 1989-1990 Prof. Lavee joined the University Of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) as clinical heart and lung transplantation Fellow, during which period he won a Fellowship Award of the American Society of Artificial Internal Organs. Upon returning to Israel Prof. Lavee has founded the Heart Transplantation Unit at the Sheba Medical Center, which since has become Israel's largest unit of its kind.


In 1997 Prof. Lavee implanted the first left Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) in Israel (HeartMate, Thoratec) and since then has become a national authority in the management of terminally ill heart failure patients. Facing an ever existing shortage of human heart donors, Prof. Lavee has joined the Thoratec company and the UPMC Artificial Heart and Lung Program in their efforts to find a permanent mechanical alternative to heart transplantation, and on July 2000 has performed the world's first human implant of the Heart Mate II Left Ventricular-Assist System.


The major focus of Prof. Lavee's research are the mechanisms and management of bleeding problems in patients undergoing open-heart operations, on which he published numerous articles in the medical literature and an extensive textbook. In addition he heads a research on a novel technique to prolong preservation of donor hearts for transplantation, utilizing antifreeze proteins derived from the blood of arctic fish.


Prof. Lavee is an Associate Professor of Surgery at the Faculty of Medicine of the Tel Aviv University. He has been the chairman of the Israel Society of Cardiothoracic Surgery between 1999 and 2004, and since 2008 is the President of the Israel Society of Transplantation.

Address - Department of Cardiac Surgery, Heart Center
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