Northwestern Memorial Surgeons Perform 1,000th Liver Transplant
Multi-disciplinary team to credit for achieving this milestone
Northwestern Memorial surgeons have completed their 1,000th liver transplant , a notable milestone for the center, which has experienced significant growth since its inception. For the past 10 years, Northwestern Memorial’s liver transplant volumes have been higher than any other center in Chicago.
“This is great accomplishment for the liver transplant team,” said Michael Abecassis, MD, chief of the division of organ transplantation and dean of clinical affairs at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “Our team brings together not only a diverse combination of expertise, but also an unwavering level of commitment which has allowed us to grow and provide care to even more patients in need.” The multi-disciplinary staff includes surgeons, hepatologists, nurses, clinical coordinators, social workers, nutritionists, interventional radiologists and other subspecialties.
Nearly 16,000 people with liver disease are currently on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) waiting list, and experts continuously look for ways to address the shortage. Since the program’s inception in 1993, Northwestern Memorial has launched several initiatives to address the issue. “We have placed a strong emphasis on living donation, research and clinical trials, as well as the implementation of specialized programs such as the Hispanic Transplant Program and Comprehensive Liver Cancer Clinic,” said Steven Flamm, MD, medical director of the liver transplant program. “We’ve also expanded access to our services by opening satellite clinics in the Chicago suburbs and northwest Indiana.”
Terry Costello, who was the first person to receive a liver transplant at Northwestern Memorial commented, “The transplant changed my life completely. It affected not only my body and health, but my whole outlook on life.” Costello, who received his transplant nearly sixteen years ago on August 25, 1993, continues to come to the clinic for care and is excited to see all of the enhancements that have been made over the years. “There are so many more options available for patients today, it’s fantastic to see so many people getting a second chance,” added Costello.
The 1000th liver transplant recipient, Dorothy Radloff, echoed Costello’s statement and added, “I am very grateful to the transplant team. Now that I have received a liver, I have much more energy and look forward to spending time with my family.” Radloff, who has six children, 14 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, received her transplant May 15, 2009 and is recovering well.
There are many more people who need a liver transplant than there are livers available for donation. “Unfortunately, the number of organs available for transplantation has not kept pace with the demand,” said Talia Baker, MD, transplant surgeon and director of the living donor liver transplant program. “Living donation is one way to increase the number of available organs, and is an important focus of our program. It also has significant advantages including less time spent on the waiting list, the quality of organs tend to be superior and the time between procurement of the organ and transplantation is minimized,” added Baker. To date, surgeons from Northwestern University Affiliated Transplant Centers, which includes Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Children’s Memorial Hospital, have transplanted more than 150 living donor livers. In addition, newly released data from UNOS shows that in 2007 and 2008 Northwestern Memorial’s living donor kidney transplant program was the largest in the country.
To further study living donation, Northwestern Memorial is one of only nine centers in the country and the only center in Illinois participating in the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded A2ALL consortium. The A2ALL national project looks at donor and recipient outcomes for living donor liver patients over a seven-year period. In addition to studying living donation, an important focus of the liver transplant program, and a strong benefit of an academic medical center environment, is a commitment to the study and treatment of patients through clinical research trials. Research trials are currently open for patients with liver disease including hepatitis B, C and acute or chronic liver failure.
The Hispanic community has a particularly high incidence and prevalence of diseases leading to liver failure, and in response Northwestern Memorial launched a Hispanic Transplant Program dedicated to serving the Hispanic population in the greater Chicago area, a group of close to two million people. The program supports the longstanding goal of providing individualized patient care by offering comprehensive, culturally-sensitive services and patient education materials for Hispanic patients undergoing transplant surgery.
“Through this program in the last year we’ve been able to double the number of new Hispanics on the waiting list and the number of liver transplants in this population,” said Juan Carlos Caicedo, MD, transplant surgeon and director of the Hispanic Transplant Program.
Another disease that can lead to liver transplantation is liver cancer, which is the fifth most common cancer worldwide. Northwestern Memorial is home to the first Comprehensive Liver Cancer Clinic in the Midwest that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of liver cancer. The incidence of liver cancer has doubled over the past three decades, and because the numbers of liver cancer patients awaiting transplantation is far greater than the number of donor organs available, greater emphasis is placed on the need for new therapies to treat these cancers.
“As we celebrate the milestone we’ve achieved, we look forward to the future and further expansion of our program,” added Abecassis. Learn more about Northwestern Memorial’s liver transplant program.