State Authorizes Liver Transplants at Swedish

State Authorizes Liver Transplants at Swedish

SEATTLE - July 7, 2004 - Swedish Medical Center has received formal approval from the Washington State Department of Health for its Certificate-of-Need application to establish a new adult liver transplant program on Swedish's First Hill Campus. The first procedures could be done within the next several months.

Currently, the University of Washington Medical Center has the only liver transplant program designed to serve adults in Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.

"For various reasons, current available services haven't been able to meet the demands of our region. So, many individuals have either had to leave the area for a liver transplant or simply not had the option of receiving one," said William Marks, M.D., Ph.D., medical director Swedish's Organ Transplant program and Laboratory for Transplantation Biology. "A second local program will offer patients greater access to care, more flexibility, alternative protocols and treatments."

A significant number of livers donated by Northwest residents are being sent now to other regions of the country for transplantation. According to LifeCenter Northwest, the region's organ procurement organization, over the past four years more than 100 transplantable livers have been exported from the Northwest to other states.

"Our ultimate goal is to prolong a person's life while improving the quality of it," said Brian Kuske, Swedish's vice president of Ambulatory and Ancillary Services. "The liver transplant program allows Swedish to better meet that goal by providing a comprehensive abdominal transplant service."

Under the direction of Dr. Marks, Swedish has become one of the top performing programs in the country for kidney and pancreas transplantation. In 2003, Swedish's transplant surgeons performed more than 100 such procedures. In addition to Dr. Marks, Drs. Lisa Florence, Phillip Chapman and Andrew Precht make up the organ-transplant surgical team. Dr. Marks added that, as part of the new program, Swedish will be recruiting additional personnel skilled in liver transplantation.

Liver transplants will be performed in existing operating suites on the Swedish First Hill Campus, with post-transplant inpatient care provided on the organ-transplant unit staffed by a skilled nursing staff with special expertise in transplantation.

The procedure is technically difficult and demands a specially trained, multidisciplinary team surgeons, medical specialists, transplant nurses and other specialty support services such as pharmacy and social services. The average hospital stay for liver transplant patients is 10 to 16 days, and they typically require a great deal of pre- and postoperative care.

"We plan to start slowly and to build consistently during the first few years of the program," Kuske said. "It's likely we will perform 40 transplants annually by the fourth or fifth year."

According to the American Liver Foundation, more than 25 million Americans are affected by some form of liver or biliary disease. There are approximately 18,000 people on the waiting list for a liver transplant - and that number grows each year. The national waiting list for organ transplants is kept by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).

While some liver conditions and their complications can be treated effectively with medications, liver transplantation is now widely accepted for a variety of irreversible acute and chronic liver diseases for which there is no satisfactory therapy.

Transplantation is usually appropriate for patients with:

  • Advanced chronic liver disease
  • Fulminant hepatic failure
  • Congenital liver disorders
  • Metabolic diseases - including imbalances of iron, cholesterol, copper or enzymes
  • Liver cancer
  • Benign tumors and conditions that destroy liver tissue

"Within the past few years, Northwesterners with certain types of liver cancers have come to understand that transplantation is the treatment of choice," Dr. Marks said. "Now we'll be able to serve many more of those patients closer to home."

According to the National Institutes of Health, among adults the most common reason for liver transplantation is cirrhosis. It is caused by many different types of liver injuries that destroy healthy liver cells and replace them with scar tissue. Cirrhosis can be brought on by viruses such as hepatitis B or C, alcohol abuse, autoimmune liver diseases, buildup of fat in the liver and hereditary diseases.


Swedish Medical Center is the largest, most comprehensive, nonprofit health provider in the Pacific Northwest. It is comprised of three hospital campuses (First Hill, Providence and Ballard), Swedish Home Care Services and Swedish Physicians - a network of 11 primary-care clinics. In addition to general medical and surgical care, Swedish is known as a regional referral center, providing specialized treatment in areas such as cardiac care, oncology, orthopedics, high-risk obstetrics, neurological care, sleep medicine, pediatrics, organ transplantation and clinical research. For more information, visit

Media Coverage

  • To read an article about this posted on the Puget Sound Business Journal Web site on July 7, click here.
  • To read an article about this published in The Seattle Times on July 8, click here.


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