UI team performs center's 5,000th organ transplant

Surgical transplant team in an operating room

Leaders of the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics Organ Transplant Center announce that the program has performed its 5,000th solid organ transplant.

This milestone was reached in March of 2015 when a patient received a new liver.

The UI Organ Transplant Center, which also serves the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Iowa City, performed its first transplant — a kidney — in 1969. It was the state’s first transplant program and remains the only multi-organ, comprehensive transplant program in Iowa serving both adult and pediatric patients.

“We are both humbled and honored to be part of this historic milestone for Iowa’s transplant program and patients,” says Alan Reed, MD, MBA, Professor of Surgery and Director of the UI Organ Transplant Center. “The advancements we’re making today in transplant care are founded on the pioneering efforts, both at Iowa and elsewhere, over the past near half century of men and women dedicated to extending lives through organ transplantation.”

Reed says that of the 5,000 transplants performed by the UI center since 1969, 431 of them (8.6 percent) involved veterans receiving care at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Iowa City.

“We are extremely proud of our mutually beneficial practice relationship with the VA hospital,” Reed says. “It is a privilege for our transplant teams to provide a life-changing option for these veterans who are experiencing advanced stages of organ failure.”

Since its inception, the UI organ transplant program has benefited from a strong research program on transplant matters.

Jean Robillard, MD, former vice president for medical affairs and himself a pediatric kidney specialist who has cared for many transplant recipients over the years, applauds the University’s leadership in transplant care.

“We are proud to be Iowa’s leading center for organ transplant, serving the state with life-promoting transplants over these past 46 years,” Robillard says. “Iowans make up 85 percent of the patients who have received transplants at our center, and they have come from 96 of Iowa’s 99 counties.”

He adds that 9 percent of the center’s transplant recipients come from the states surrounding Iowa, and the center has served patients from 46 U.S. states and 12 other countries.

Transplant firsts for the state of Iowa, all performed at UI Hospitals & Clinics, include the following:

1969 – Kidney
1979 – Pancreas
1979 – Kidney and Pancreas
1983 - Heart
1984 – Liver
1988 – Lung
1988 – Heart and Lung

Transplant number 5,000, which involved a liver, is the second most common transplant performed at UI Hospitals & Clinics.

The 5,000 transplants break out as follows:

Kidney – 66.4 percent
Liver – 15.5 percent
Heart – 6.7 percent
Lung – 2.7 percent
Pancreas – 1.4 percent

Multi-organ transplants (including kidney/pancreas; kidney/liver; heart/kidney; and heart/lung) - 7.3 percent

Pediatric heart surgeon Joseph Turek, MD, says that while heart transplants are relatively new on the transplant timeline, the University has over the years distinguished itself as Iowa’s only heart transplantation program and earned national respect for its outcomes for adult and pediatric patients. He credits Iowa’s team approach for these successes.

“The many intricacies of caring for patients throughout their transplant journey are the epitome of a team endeavor,” Turek says. “Our transplant team approach has shaped our current ‘heart team’ approach to all aspects of cardiac care.”

Reed echoes the success of Iowa’s teamwork.

“We are proudest of our team approach to transplantation,” he says. “All members of the team — doctors, nurses, pharmacists, psychologists, social workers, financial counselors, administrators, and care coordinators — specialize in transplant care and focus first and foremost on the patient and his/her family.

“This milestone gives us an opportunity to reflect not only on the quantity of transplants performed at Iowa but on the quality of our outcomes,” Reed adds. “Our survival rates rank well above the national average for a center of our size and for all of the organ types.”

Our 5,000th Transplant in the News

See what the media are saying about some of the patients who are part of our 5,000-transplant legacy.