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VOL. 121 | NO. 245 | Wednesday, December 20, 2006

With Almost 200 Organ Transplants in '06, Institute has Come a Long Way, Baby

By Amy O. Williams

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DELICATE OPERATION: Drs. Santiago Vera and Atsushi Shimizu perform a kidney transplant. -- Photo Courtesy Of Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute

By the end of 2006, almost 200 people will have received newly transplanted organs from the Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute. As of Dec. 14, 188 liver, kidney and pancreas transplants had been performed.

Barry Marshall, administrator of the institute, said the success of the clinic this year is the result of the staff's hard work.

"It's been teamwork," he said. "It has been one big team effort and it has worked out very well."

Currently that team consists of only three surgeons: Dr. Nosratollah Nezakatgoo, Dr. Santiago Vera and Dr. James D. Eason, who is the institute's program director.

The institute, inside Methodist University Hospital at 1265 Union Ave., is a partnership program with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. Methodist took over management of UT Bowld Hospital and its transplant program in November 2002.

Bowld new world

Almost two years later, the UT Bowld Transplant program moved to Methodist University Hospital, and the Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute was formed.

This year marks a record number of transplants for the institute. Until this year, the highest number of transplants performed was 176 in 1998.

Marshall attributes the increase to new protocols that have been established since Eason joined the staff in April.

"The new protocols allow us to utilize organs that we might not otherwise have been able to use," he said.

Prior to Eason being named program director, the institute was very conservative in its approach to matching recipients with suitable organs, Marshall said.

When Eason arrived, new protocols were put in place, for example, that would allow someone with Hepatitis B whose liver is failing to receive a liver from a donor who also has Hepatitis B.

Milestones at Methodist University
Hospital Transplant Institute:

April 1970 - First organ transplant (kidney) in the Mid-South is performed by Dr. Louis G. Britt, UT Bowld Transplant program founder.
May 1993 - 1,000th kidney transplant is performed at UT Bowld.
November 1993 - 200th liver transplant is performed at UT Bowld.
April 1995 - First pancreas islet cell (pancreatic cells that produce hormones controlling the level of sugar in the blood) transplant is performed at UT Bowld.
December 1998 - 150th simultaneous kidney/pancreas transplant is performed at UT Bowld.
November 2002 - Methodist Healthcare begins management of UT Bowld Hospital and its transplant program.
July 2004 - The UT Bowld Transplant program moves to Methodist University Hospital, establishing the Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute.
Dec. 14, 2006 - The 188th transplant of the year is performed.

Since the recipient already has the disease, there is no added risk. Prior to Eason's arrival at Methodist, such an organ would have been refused and passed on to someone outside the area who needed a liver.

"Tennessee has a large number of donors that have been leaving the state because the transplant programs in Tennessee were not aggressive in using them," Eason said.

Also, the number of living donor transplants has increased substantially in the last several years. This year, there were 32 living-donor kidney transplants performed at Methodist's Transplant Institute, Marshall said.

"This time in 2002, we had done 16," he said.

Goals and objectives

Marshall said he believes Methodist's transplant institute is growing, and will be one of the top 10 transplant programs in the country in the next couple of years.

"We are truly the up-and-comer in the transplant world," he said.

Methodist currently has the only abdominal transplant program in the Mid-South, which performs kidney, pancreas and liver transplants.

Methodist currently has the only abdominal transplant program in the Mid-South.

Baptist Memorial Health Care performs heart and lung transplants at its facility in East Memphis.

Eason came to Methodist from Ochsner Clinic and Ochsner Foundation Hospital in New Orleans, where he was Section Head of Abdominal Organ Transplantation.

"I think there was a great team in place, and I had the opportunity to come in and lead them in a new direction," Eason said.

Born in Memphis, Eason received his medical degree from the University of Tennessee School of Medicine and his undergraduate degree from David Lipscomb University in Nashville.

Currently, both Marshall and Eason said Methodist ranks among the top 20 abdominal transplant programs in the country. In 2007, Eason would like to build on the program's success this past year.

"The goal for the institution is to make the UT Methodist Transplant Institute not only a top notch provider of transplant care in the region, we want to make it a national destination for transplant care," Eason said.

Serious waiting list

And with the success of 2006, it seems the staff of the transplant institute is well on its way. Marshall projected that the institute could perform as many as 250 transplants a year.

And with almost 95,000 people waiting for an organ transplant as of 8 p.m. Sunday night, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), those 250 transplants a year are sure to make an impact.

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