State Supreme Court Gives Swedish Green Light to Open Liver Transplant Program

State Supreme Court Gives Swedish Green Light to Open Liver Transplant Program

SEATTLE, July 10, 2008 -- The Washington state Supreme Court today upheld a Department of Health decision to allow Swedish to establish a new adult liver transplant program on Swedish's First Hill campus. With this formal approval, the first procedures at Swedish could start in early 2009.   

Swedish originally received approval for its Certificate of Need application to provide liver transplant services in 2004, but it was appealed by University of Washington Medical Center and has been in the appeals process ever since. The state supreme court ruling issued July 10, however, officially clears the way for Swedish to start a liver transplant program. Prior to this decision, the University of Washington was the only liver transplant program designated to serve adults in the states of Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.     

"For various reasons, current available services haven't been able to keep up with growing patient demand," said William Marks, M.D., Ph.D., medical director of 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."

"Our ultimate goal is to prolong a person's life while improving the quality of it," said Brian Kuske, chief administrative officer and senior vice president of Swedish/First Hill. "Also, the liver transplant program fulfills Swedish's objective of providing a comprehensive abdominal transplant service and comprehensive liver center."  

Under the direction of Dr. Marks, Swedish has become one of the top performing programs in the country for kidney and pancreas transplantation. The Organ Transplant Program at Swedish was established 15 years ago to meet a growing need for transplantation services in the Northwest.

"We plan to start slowly and to build consistently during the first few years of the program, and have it reach its maturity within three to fours years," Kuske said. 

According to the American Liver Foundation, 30 million Americans are affected by some form of liver or biliary disease. There are approximately 16,000 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
  • Some liver cancers  
  • 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."


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