January 27, 2006

Rising acuity rates push liver transplants to record numbers

Featured Image

Ravi Chari, M.D., left, guides Surgery resident Eric Grogan, M.D., during a liver resection.
photo by Anne Rayner

Rising acuity rates push liver transplants to record numbers

In 2005, Vanderbilt University Medical Center transplanted 82 livers, a 20 percent increase over the previous year and an all-time record for the program.

The previous record was set in 2002, with 71 liver transplants performed. These numbers include transplants performed at the Veterans Administration hospital.

Vanderbilt, through a contractual agreement with the VA, is one of four approved centers in the United States to provide transplants to veterans.

“Our growing number of transplants reflects increased donor activity and increased utilization of available donors, as well as increased acuity of our recipients,” said Ravi Chari, M.D., chief of Liver Transplant and Hepatobiliary Surgery. “Transplantation is driven by recipient MELD scores. As we are having an increased number of patients who have higher scores, we receive more organ offers.”

Chari said the criteria for both acceptable donors and eligible recipients has evolved over the years.

“As we include more and more people for eligibility to transplantation, we have more and more people with high scores, forcing us to use more and more donors in order to address this need.”

The outcome measures for Vanderbilt's Transplant Program have continued on a steady path. Chari points to the “broad hospital support” at VUMC that allows patients access to world-class facilities.

“There is tremendous collaborative work effort within this hospital with our program,” he said. “It is obviously a great feeling anytime we are able to transplant somebody and watch them go through recovery and go on to resume a relatively normal life. Everyone who assists in the care of patients is entitled to share in our satisfaction as we all worked together for the success.”

Vanderbilt will continue to expand its liver transplant program in response to the growing need of its transplant population, both recipient and donor.