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Press Releases

UC Health Uses Innovation to Set Records in Organ Transplantation

Feb. 2, 2024

More than 300 patients received the gift of life thanks to new techniques for organ preservation and treatment.

Three hundred eighty-one people received the gift of life in 2023 through UC Health’s nationally-ranked solid organ transplant program, setting yet another record year.

UC Health’s specialty and sub-specialty teams transplanted 407 organs through heart, liver, kidney and pancreas transplant surgeries performed at UC Medical Center. Some patients diagnosed with complex conditions underwent multiple transplant surgeries for different organs.

“The accomplished outcomes of our UC Health organ transplant program demonstrate the impact of blending innovation and compassionate care,” said Shimul A. Shah, MD, section chief of solid organ transplantation at UC Health, James and Catherine Orr Endowed Chair in Liver Transplantation, and professor of surgery at UC College of Medicine. “I am exceptionally proud of our team and providers, who remain dedicated to delivering lifesaving medical care for our patients. But most of all, we must thank our donors for providing the ultimate gift.”

UC Health’s record year included 181 liver transplants, a 24% increase from the prior year. Among 250 transplant centers in the U.S., the program ranks 12th by volume for liver transplants and has the highest transplant rate in the nation, according to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR). The SRTR used a statistical model comparing the number of expected transplants to the national average of donors with the same characteristics to name UC Health as the top program for transplant rates. 

Experts from the program credit their success in earning the highest transplant rate in the U.S. to using cutting-edge techniques to expand existing donor pools.

One example is the use of machine perfusion in organ transplantation. Machine perfusion improves the viability of transplanted organs, even overcoming issues from cold static storage, such as the buildup of toxic waste products in the organ. In 2023, the UC Health transplant program used this technique in 57 liver transplant cases.

“The use of the machine perfusion pump has had a tremendous impact on our program’s ability to preserve organs for transplantation and allowed us to not only increase our transplant volume but improve our patient’s outcomes as well,” stated Cutler Quillin, MD, surgical director of liver transplantation at UC Health and associate professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

In addition to liver transplants, UC Health performed 210 kidney transplants, ranking in top 15% nationally by volume.

Also of note, heart transplant volumes were up in 2023, mostly from a 54% increase in referrals and 50% increase in patients added to the national transplant waitlist. UC Health was the Greater Cincinnati region’s first heart transplant program and ranks in the top 10% nationally for patient outcomes.

Patient outcomes are excellent among patients transplanted at UC Health, and median wait times are among the lowest in the nation—just 15 days for liver transplant patients and 198 days for kidney transplant patients.

Yet for many organ recipients impacted by the advanced care delivered by the UC Health transplant program, the gift of both time and life cannot be measured.

Candice Dixon was one of these patients. In 2018, she received both a kidney and a pancreas through two separate surgeries after spending almost two years on the organ recipient waitlist. In 2023, she welcomed her first child—a daughter— after continuing her follow-up care with the health system.

Dixon credited the multidisciplinary treatment from UC Health for her experience, stating, “It hasn’t let me down yet, and my life revolves around taking care of myself and now, my beautiful daughter, which is a product of this beautifully life-changing gift of life.”

The UC Health transplant program is nationally known for transplant clinical practice, research and education. It is also a destination referral center, with over 2,000 referrals received in 2023 for kidney and liver transplant patients. 

The program provides kidney, heart, liver and pancreas transplants, as well as hepatobiliary surgery. The program has earned a national reputation for its clinical outcomes, influential academic research —especially in anti-rejection medication, and innovative programs and techniques. It has also provided new hope and longer, happier lives to thousands of organ recipients.