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Physicians Update

 
Spring 2009

Silver Anniversary: UCLA's Liver Transplant Program Is Going Strong

03/01/2009

25 Anniv Liver TransplantUCLA started its liver transplant program 25 years ago, at a time when there were only a few such programs in the country, and none west of the Mississippi River.

“When we began planning for it, it was still considered experimental by most observers,” recalls surgeon Ronald Busuttil, M.D., Ph.D., who performed the first liver transplant at UCLA on February 1, 1984. “It wasn’t until only a few months before we did that first case that the National Institutes of Health said it should be considered a therapeutic procedure. But even that was based on only 170 cases that had been done worldwide over 20 years, so the backlog of experience that we had was pretty meager, to say the least.

“It was daunting, but it also was extraordinarily exhilarating,” Dr. Busuttil says.

Today, UCLA’s liver transplant program is the largest in the world. A quarter-century after its inception, UCLA’s multidisciplinary program has performed nearly 5,000 transplants for infants, children and adults. More than 60 percent of the patients who received transplants 20 or more years ago are still alive — a remarkable testament to the success of the program, even during its earliest years.

The Dumont-UCLA Transplant Center has become the most experienced liver transplant program in the West, serving patients from California, Oregon, Washington and throughout the Southwest, and is a referral center for other transplant programs faced with particularly challenging cases.

Not only has the UCLA liver transplant program made a huge difference for patients in the West, its success is felt across the country, and across the globe. UCLA’s fellowship training program in liver transplantation is recognized as the foremost in the world; more than 50 liver transplant surgeons have trained at UCLA, many of whom have gone on to head their own programs elsewhere in the United States, including at such major centers as the University of Chicago, Massachusetts General Hospital, Johns Hopkins and the University of Pennsylvania. And nearly 200 foreign scholars have come to Westwood to observe and study liver transplantation.

“We have been doing this for 25 years, and there have been many challenges, but I know it has been worth it,” Dr. Busuttil says. “And it’s going to continue to be worth it because, as I see it, it’s only going to get better and better, with improved patient outcomes.”

Liver Transplat TeamThe program has been a leader in the advancement of new surgical techniques that utilize the limited resource of donor organs more effectively. For example, UCLA offers active living-donor liver transplantation programs for both pediatric and adult patients. UCLA is also a national leader in the utilization of in-situ split-liver transplantation, in which a single donor organ can be divided and transplanted into two patients, thus expanding the available organs for transplant. And the UCLA program is at the forefront of clinical research, offering patients access to the latest innovations in immunosuppressive therapy and treatment for complications of transplantation such as rejection and infection.

For more information about the UCLA liver transplant program, as well as other transplant programs at UCLA, go to: http://transplants.ucla.edu/





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