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Published in CenterView on February 11, 2013
Abdominal transplant team members include, front row from left, Ashley Seawright, nurse practitioner, Dr. Truman Earl, Dr. Fauzia Butt, Dr. Christopher Anderson, Dr. Iasmina Craici, Dr. Kenneth Kokko and Dr. Mehul Dixit, and back row from left, Dr. Brian Borg and Dr. Steven Wagner. Not pictured: Dr. Louis Juncos and Dr. Shirley Shlessinger.
Abdominal transplant team members include, front row from left, Ashley Seawright, nurse practitioner, Dr. Truman Earl, Dr. Fauzia Butt, Dr. Christopher Anderson, Dr. Iasmina Craici, Dr. Kenneth Kokko and Dr. Mehul Dixit, and back row from left, Dr. Brian Borg and Dr. Steven Wagner. Not pictured: Dr. Louis Juncos and Dr. Shirley Shlessinger.

Transplant program sets new kidney mark, plans liver reboot

By Jack Mazurak

Teams at the University of Mississippi Medical Center transplanted a record 103 kidneys last year, a figure they could surpass in 2013 even while preparing to restart liver transplantations following a 22-year hiatus.

“This record stands as a benchmark as we work toward becoming a complete abdominal-organ transplant center,” said Dr. James Keeton, vice chancellor for health affairs.

“Our talented faculty and staff members couldn’t have accomplished this without the support of our partners at the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency.”

anderson headThe all-time high in kidney transplants allowed more patients to see dramatic quality-of-life improvements. As well, more patients could stay close to home for the major procedure than ever before, said Dr. Christopher Anderson, associate professor of transplant surgery and division chief of transplant and hepatobiliary surgery.

“We’re extremely proud that we hit this mark. It means advanced care is more available for Mississippians and that our transplant program’s capabilities have achieved a new level,” he said.

“We’re also pleased to see our success rate in these patients is on par with what you’d expect to see nationally.”

No other health-care facilities in Mississippi transplant organs.

With approval last week from the United Network for Organ Sharing, the governing body for organ transplantation in the U.S., the Medical Center cleared the final regulatory hurdle to perform liver transplants. UMMC last performed a liver transplant in 1991.

The first case for the renewed liver-transplant program could come this year. The team will begin evaluating and listing patients for liver transplants immediately.

“We know there are about 60 patients a year who have to leave the state for liver transplants,” Anderson said. “But probably there are also people who need liver care but can’t or don’t get it.

“We can now offer this care to all patients in Mississippi.”

The 103 kidney transplants facilitated another record figure. Last year, the highest percentage ever of Mississippi-donated kidneys stayed in the state.

Also in 2012, the teams performed the first of two kidney transplants ever in the Batson Children’s Hospital. Previously, pediatric patients received their transplants in University Hospital.

A strong relationship with the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency helped make the record possible. The Medical Center receives organs through MORA, the federally designated organ procurement organization for most of the state.

“This transplant record at the University of Mississippi Medical Center is wonderful, but it couldn’t have happened without the families from Mississippi who said ‘yes’ to donating their loved one’s organs.” said Kevin Stump, MORA CEO.

MORA and UMMC are working to reinvigorate a living-donor kidney program. Kidneys donated by living people statistically function longer and better.

“We have our first living-donor case coming through in summer 2013,” Anderson said.

Many reasons account for the kidney transplant record, including growth of the transplant-coordinating staff, hiring of a second transplant surgeon and addition of a third transplant nephrologist.

“There are a lot of people, logistics and moving parts,” Anderson said. “Without commitment from the greater institution, we wouldn’t have this success.”

Anderson would like to average 150 kidney transplant cases a year within five years. Achieving that will require increases in both living and deceased donations.

“I certainly think we have the rate of disease in Mississippi to justify these numbers,” he said. “So we’re projecting 2013 will be an even bigger year.”