Transplant Program Hits Important Milestone
(Washington, DC) – The 500th liver transplant at Georgetown University Hospital was performed on Wednesday September 12, 2007, marking an important milestone in the program’s nine-year history. On that same day the transplant team also performed one other liver transplant on a 3-month old child and a small bowel and pancreas into another patient, making three transplant patients in all that day.
“It’s pretty unusual to have this many organs available at one time. When we are fortunate to receive organs for our patients, we must be prepared to proceed with their transplants. Reaching 500 liver transplants is an important milestone because in reaching it over the past nine years, we’ve become the largest liver transplant program in the area and one of the largest in the mid-Atlantic region,” said Lynt B. Johnson, MD, chief of Transplant Surgery. “Studies have repeatedly shown that the more cases you do, the better the survival rates for both the patient and the transplanted organ. In 2006, for example, we transplanted 86 livers. That gives the surgical team a lot of expertise with the procedure and care of the patient.”
The 500th patient was 35-year-old Christopher Capistran, part owner of a software company from Alexandria, Virginia. Chris’s case was unusual. Back in June he came to the emergency room at Georgetown with abdominal pain. During the same CT scan that diagnosed his appendicitis, doctors found tumors on his liver, which turned out to be a rare and slow growing type of liver cancer called epithelioid hemangioendothelioma. His only chance of a cure was a liver transplant. Eight friends and family members volunteered to be living donors, but no one was a match. Three weeks after his trip to the emergency room and his appendectomy, Chris’s wife Courtney gave birth to their daughter Lauren.
In the hours before his transplant Chris Capistran said, “It will be really great to have this behind me and really enjoy time with my family, my new daughter. Obviously I cannot say enough about the importance of organ donation. I am so grateful to the person and their family who made the choice to be an organ donor.”
Chris’s transplant surgeon Amy Lu, MD said the five and a half hour long surgery could not have gone smoother. “His prognosis is excellent. We expect him to have a speedy recovery and to be home in about a week’s time.”
Dr. Johnson performed the first liver transplant at Georgetown in June of 1998 on then 42-year old Gary Cairns of Sperryville, VA. He was suffering with hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
“Nine years later and I’m still doing very well,” said Mr. Cairns. I’m running around the Blue Ridge Mountains here with my surveying business and couldn’t feel better.”
Just like Chris Capistran, Gary Cairns has a wife and a daughter who was very young when he had his transplant.
About a year after GUH’s first liver transplant, in 1999 surgeons performed the first living related donor transplant. Living related donor transplants are a smaller percentage of the overall liver transplant cases at GUH, but the option has set the program apart from others in the area. In those cases, the surgeon removes one side of a living donor’s liver and transplants it into the recipient. In 4-6 months, both the donor’s and the recipient’s liver grows back to full size.
“The biggest benefit to the people in our region is that the outcomes with transplants are directly correlated with the experience of the transplant team. The larger the program, the better the care for the patient. We’ve structured things here so all members of the team are housed together administratively to provide a cohesive approach so the total focus is the transplant patient and their care. On this day I’m glad we had such an expert team to handle these transplants on multiple patients,” said Dr. Johnson.
Media Contact: Marianne Worley
Patient Contact: 202-342-2400