The GW Transplant Institute is the newest facility in the District to offer liver transplants.
By Thomas Kohout
The George Washington University Transplant Institute’s Liver Transplantation Program and surgeons Stephen Gray and Lynt Johnson recently completed the institute’s first liver transplant.
For the inaugural transplant, the surgical team was faced with a multi-organ procedure, replacing both the patient’s liver and kidney.
“Liver/kidney transplants are not uncommon, and [they] account for 10% of all liver transplants in the U.S.,” said Gray, associate professor of surgery at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS). Gray and Johnson, executive director of the Liver and Pancreas Institute for Quality at the GW Medical Faculty Associates and professor of surgery at SMHS, led the surgical team.
The GW Transplant Institute is Washington, D.C.’s, newest facility offering liver transplants, and, through the institute, GW and its clinical partners have pledged to reduce geographic disparity and increase access to liver transplantation.
“GW’s Liver Transplantation Program provides the residents of Washington, D.C., with another option for care,” said Gray. “We are committed to serving all residents of the District. GW’s commitment to providing care for D.C. is enhanced by initiating the liver transplant program.”
The liver is key to a number of critical body functions, such as metabolism, Gray explained. In the liver, blood is processed to break down nutrients so the body can convert them into energy. The liver also makes the clotting factors necessary for wound healing, and it is key in most drug metabolism.
Diseases such as hepatitis B and C, alcoholic liver disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease contribute to roughly 5.5 million Americans living with chronic liver disease or cirrhosis, according to the American Liver Foundation. The GW MFA offers comprehensive, individualized liver management.
“We are a center for comprehensive liver care,” said Zahid M. Vahora, B.A. ’05, assistant professor of surgery and of medicine. “In addition to providing liver transplantation and post-transplant care, we are specialized in the management of viral hepatitis, alcoholic liver disease, fatty liver, cholestatic and autoimmune liver diseases, complications of portal hypertension, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma.”
Cirrhosis is a rising cause of death in the United States, and the fourth leading cause of death among middle-aged adults. With the rise of fatty liver and alcoholic liver disease, that number is widely expected to increase, according to Vahora. Early identification and treatment of the various causes of liver disease is paramount.
For those with severe liver disease that isn’t controlled by diet and medication, a liver transplant might be the only remaining option.
“If a transplant is indicated, patients will initiate and complete a transplant evaluation,” said Gray. “Our goal is to provide high-quality, patient-centered care tailored to the needs of each patient and family.
“There are more than 12,000 people listed for liver transplantation nationwide, and 9,000 transplants are performed annually,” he said. “Organ donation is the key to transplantation for all organs, so there is a huge need for more people to register to be organ donors.”
More information about organ donation can be found at www.OrganDonor.gov.