June 22, 2007

Liver transplant program hits milestone

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Amy Major, Ph.D.

Liver transplant program hits milestone

A Middle Tennessee woman became the 800th liver transplant recipient at Vanderbilt University Medical Center last week, a significant milestone for the largest liver transplant program in Tennessee.

The longtime Vanderbilt patient came through the surgery with no complications and is expected to remain in the hospital for about a week. She spent 21 days on the waiting list for a liver.

“We are pleased to be able to serve the liver transplant needs of our city, state and region,” said Kelly Wright, M.D., director of Vanderbilt's Liver Transplant Program. “This 800th transplant is yet another milestone. However, there are still hundreds of patients in need of liver transplantation, and donor organ availability is what keeps us from being able to do even more for patients with end stage liver disease.”

Vanderbilt performed its first liver transplant in February 1991. Now, more than 90 liver transplants are performed each year, a number that has greatly increased over the past five years.

In 2002, there were 71 liver transplants performed at Vanderbilt, with roughly one-third of these patients being U.S. veterans. Vanderbilt, through a contractual agreement with the Veterans Administration, is one of only four approved centers in the United States to provide liver transplantation to the veteran population. In 2006, the number of transplants rose to 91, which represents a new record for transplants performed at Vanderbilt in a year. Most importantly, Vanderbilt's liver transplant outcomes remain at or above national averages.

“Our numbers have been going up steadily over the years our program has been in existence,” says Jerita Payne, APRN, BC, one of the program's liver transplant coordinators. In addition to transplants of cadaver livers, like this one, Vanderbilt also reintroduced its living-donor liver transplantation program for adults this year due to the continued shortage of cadaver livers.

The 800th patient's surgical team included Burnett (Beau) Kelly, M.D., assistant professor of Surgery, Sunil Geevarghese, M.D., assistant professor of Surgery, hepatologist Michael Porayko, M.D., associate professor of Medicine, and Matt Bumbalough, transplant coordinator.