Northwestern Medicine Surgeons Perform Hospital's 1,500th Liver Transplant
“I am very proud of our talented liver transplant team,” said Michael Abecassis, MD, chief of the division of organ transplantation and founding director of the Comprehensive Transplant Center at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Abecassis, who led the team that performed the first liver transplant at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in late August, 1993, also stated: “From the very beginning, our multi-disciplinary approach to patient care, and committed and dedicated team consisting of physicians and nurses from a number of healthcare disciplines and specialties working together, have resulted in achieving consistently excellent outcomes, making us a leader in liver transplantation, not only in the Midwest, but the nation. It is truly an honor to be part of such an excellent team.”
Terry Costello, who was the first person to receive a liver transplant at Northwestern Memorial commented, “it does change your life, it changes your life completely.” Costello, who recently turned 67, received his transplant more than 20 years ago on August 25, 1993. “I am doing very good, I feel great, and I don’t have any problems. I am happy for everyone else whose life has been changed after receiving a transplant,” added Costello.
Over the last 20 years, the need for liver transplants has grown dramatically. “In order to help as many people as possible we have made our program more accessible by opening satellite clinics in the Chicago suburbs, northwest Indiana and the Quad Cities along the Iowa Illinois border,” said Steven Flamm, MD, medical director of the liver transplant program. The satellite clinic locations include Peoria, Moline, Glenview and Joliet in Illinois, and Portage, Indiana.
The 1,500th liver transplant recipient, Freddie Martinez, was able to take advantage of the Glenview, Ill. satellite clinic himself before receiving his transplant at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “The doctors and nurses all did a wonderful, wonderful job and helped me out tremendously. I feel very blessed, and want to run with the second chance I have gotten,” said Martinez, who added that he hoped to return to work at his local library in Schaumburg, Ill., and go on fishing trips again. Martinez, received his new liver on September 12, 2013, and noted that he is feeling stronger than he has in a long time.
There are currently at least 18,000 patients on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) waiting list, but that number continues to increase, while the availability of organs has remained flat. To address the growing discrepancy, the liver transplant program at Northwestern has also become one of the leading centers in the country for adult to adult living donor liver transplantation (AALDLT).
“It is an unfortunate fact that the availability of organs has not been able to keep pace with the increasing need,” said Talia Baker, MD, transplant surgeon and director of the living donor liver transplant program. “Living donation has many benefits, most importantly of which are increasing the number of available organs and allowing a patient’s waiting time on the list to be decreased. On average, we also see higher quality organs with living donations and a decrease in the time between an organ’s procurement and its use,” said Baker. Northwestern is one of only nine medical centers participating in a AALDLT study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health titled A2ALL. The study gathers outcomes information to aid decisions made by physicians, patients and potential donors for living donor liver transplantation for individual cases.
While the need for liver transplantation is increasing across the U.S., the country’s Hispanic community has a particularly high population of patients with diseases that lead to liver failure. To better address the needs of the large Hispanic patient population that calls the Chicago area home, Northwestern Memorial developed its Hispanic Transplant Program. “By offering comprehensive, culturally-sensitive services and education for Hispanic patients through the Hispanic Transplant Program, we are able to help ensure all our patients receive the high quality care they deserve,” said Juan Carlos Caicedo, MD, transplant surgeon and director of the Hispanic Transplant Program.
Northwestern Memorial is also home to the first Comprehensive Liver Cancer Clinic in the Midwest. Liver cancer is the fifth most common cancer worldwide and accounts for more than 600,000 deaths each year according to the American Cancer Society. Due to the complex nature of treating the disease, liver cancer patients undergoing transplantation require a comprehensive approach for their treatment. Northwestern’s Comprehensive Liver Cancer Clinic is composed of physicians and nurses from transplant surgery, hepatology, oncology, interventional oncology and radiology to make sure each person’s treatment is tailored to their condition’s unique needs. “Our focus is on the patient – we treat the cancer that is within the patient so that treatment is targeted to the cancer but personalized to the patient,” said Laura Kulik, MD, director of the Comprehensive Liver Cancer program.
“Our liver transplant program has evolved a lot since our first transplant 20 years ago,” said Jonathan Fryer, MD, director of the liver transplant program at Northwestern Medicine. “As we celebrate our 1,500th liver transplant, we are also very excited about the future of our program and the chance to improve the lives of thousands more.”
Learn more information on Northwestern’s liver transplant program. To schedule an appointment, please call 312.695.0870.