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The University of Kansas Hospital Performs 1000 Liver Transplants

The University of Kansas Hospital Offers 6 Key Considerations for Organ Transplant Patients When Looking for a Transplant Hospital

KANSAS CITY, Kan., Jan. 10, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- In the Midwest Transplant Network service area, no other hospital has transplanted more organs than The University of Kansas Hospital. Two recent patients help the hospital reach a liver transplant milestone. Brenda Higgins of Kansas City was the hospital's milestone 1,000th liver transplant patient, followed shortly thereafter by Deborah Ellerbusch, Ph.D., a psychologist who works in Newton, Kan.

"I'm overwhelmed and overjoyed at having a second chance at living a healthier life," said Ellerbusch. "I'm grateful to my donor and to The University of Kansas Hospital medical team that is helping me recover."

The liver transplant program has attracted patients to Kansas City from as far away as California and New York. In fact, Ellerbusch's mother, who lives in Los Angeles, found The University of Kansas Hospital through a friend's research on its short wait times and strong outcomes. The hospital's liver transplant accomplishments include:

  • Being ranked among the top 25 programs by volume nationally
  • Patient outcomes, as measured by one-year survival rates, greater than the national average
  • Waiting times significantly lower than other centers, with the hospital's current wait time of 3.9 months, versus 7 months regionally and 11.1 months nationally

One liver transplant patient's wife, after an exhaustive search for transplant hospitals around the country, recently released a book chronicling their journey from their home in New York City to finding a hospital in Kansas City with faster wait times to complete the lifesaving procedure. The book -- "Still Livin': The True Story of How One Couple Defied All Odds and Found the Gift of Life" – was written by Barbara Zitwer, with her husband, Gil Alicea, who decided to donate half the proceeds from the sale of the book toward The University of Kansas Hospital's transplant program.

The liver transplant program began at The University of Kansas Hospital in 1990. The program's first liver transplant patient, Kristine Brees, was so impressed with the care she received she became a nurse at The University of Kansas Hospital, serving as a resource for liver transplant patients.

Timothy Schmitt, MD, director of the hospital's transplant program gives much credit for the growth to the Midwest Transplant Network and the giving nature of people in the Midwest. 

"MTN has educated the public in terms of organ donation and has worked with donor families with grace and understanding," said Dr. Schmitt. "The people of the Midwest seem to understand that the loss of a loved one can also mean a new life for many people on organ waiting lists."

Schmitt says the hospital's organ transplant program has a dedicated team of surgeons, internal medicine organ specialists, anesthesiologists, nursing staff and others to ensure excellent outcomes. 

"The University of Kansas Hospital Center for Transplantation has built an experienced team that can handle anything," he said. "We put the patient's needs first and organize our whole approach from evaluation, to operation, to follow up, with activities aligned to provide both the highest level of efficiency and through this, maximize the outcomes for our patients."

The University of Kansas Hospital is a leader in solid organ transplantation and is one of the Midwest region's most successful liver, kidney, and pancreas transplant programs. In addition to the 1,000th liver transplant since the program began in 1990, the hospital's first kidney transplant was performed in 1969 and since then, the center has performed more than 1,900 kidney transplants and nearly 150 pancreas transplants.

The hospital recently announced plans to establish a heart transplant program in an effort to offer the continuum of care to all heart patients and to better align with its mission for establishing a comprehensive center in solid organ transplantation of all major organ groups.

When faced with the need for an organ transplant, choosing a hospital is one of the most important decisions a patient will make. In addition to seeking guidance from their primary care physician, patients should research hospitals that specialize in their transplant need, gathering information on wait times and outcomes.

Patients should consider several factors, including the following:

  1. Wait Times – Many people think that organ wait times are the same for every hospital. That's not the case. In fact, wait times are publicly available on the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients website.
  2. Insurance Coverage – Organ transplants are expensive procedures. One key consideration for patients is to ensure that they choose a hospital that is in-network. Patients may want to call their insurance company in advance to find out coverage details on transplants.
  3. Staff Experience – An organ transplant is a serious and potentially life-saving procedure. Even new program may have staff with years of experience with excellent outcomes. Patients should ask about the record of the hospital staff in all organ transplant procedures.
  4. Location – It's important to consider how easy it will be for you to access your transplant hospital. Not only will you need to easily access the facility for your transplant, but also for the follow-up visits that are needed after the procedure as well as access for family members.
  5. Patient Recommendations – Are there other patients and family members that are willing to talk about their experiences? With the growth of social media, it may be easier to find transplant patients and family members who can provide thoughts on their experiences.
  6. Additional Research - Patients, their families, their physicians and the insurance companies must consider nationally available data on waiting times, the personnel, the hospital systems and the program's outcomes when determining where they should go.

The University of Kansas Hospital is the region's premier academic medical center, providing a full range of care. The hospital is affiliated with the University of Kansas Schools of Medicine, Nursing and Health Professions, and their various leading edge research projects. The constantly growing facility contains 652 staffed beds (plus 24 bassinets) and serves more than 27,000 inpatients annually.  A total of ten of its specialty areas are ranked nationally by the U.S. News & World Report "Best Hospital Lists, including Cancer (#37), Cardiology & Heart Surgery (#24), Diabetes & Endocrinology (#38), Ear, Nose & Throat (#20), Gastroenterology (#20), Geriatrics (#17), Nephrology (#15), Neurology & Neurosurgery (#22), Pulmonology (#15) and Urology (#45).  The cancer program is part of The University of Kansas Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute designated organization.  The hospital has received Magnet nursing designation, reflecting the quality of care throughout the hospital, an honor awarded to only 6.6 percent of the hospitals nationwide.  The hospital also houses the region's only burn center and the area's only nationally accredited Level I Trauma Center.  For more information, visit

SOURCE The University of Kansas Hospital

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