500th Lung Transplant Performed at UT Southwestern Medical Center

Patrícia Silva, PhD avatar

by Patrícia Silva, PhD |

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UT Southwestern Medical Center recently announced that it has performed its 500th lung transplant, placing it in an exclusive group that includes fewer than 25 American medical institutions. Lung transplantation is often the only option for patients who suffer from life-threatening conditions, such as pulmonary hypertension (PH) or cystic fibrosis (CF).

The 500th lung transplant was conducted at the UT Southwestern Medical Center’s new William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital on 25-year-old CF patient Christopher Bryant Vera. The head of the Pulmonary Hypertension Program at UT Southwestern, Fernando Torres, explained in a press release that all transplants are remarkable accomplishments and despite the importance of UTSW reaching the milestone, what is most important to the institution is the patient’s health.

“Having performed 500 lung transplants is an important milestone because it indicates a level of care that is a little different from institutions that don’t do many transplants,” said Torres, who is a pulmonologist and associate professor of Internal Medicine and Medical Director of Lung Transplantation. “Large-volume centers tend to have better outcomes for patients.”

In addition to conducting 500 lung transplants, UTSW has also performed more than 1,000 cardiothoracic transplants, including both heart and lung transplants. The surgeons at the center are increasing the volume of procedures performed, which raises the possibilities of patients suffering from debilitating respiratory diseases.

UT Southwestern is currently the eighth center in the country on the list of institutions that perform the procedure to reach the 500th lung transplant milestone according to the United Network for Organ Transplant, the organization that manages the organ transplant system in the country. The center has performed over 60 lung transplants annually over the past three years.

“It reflects our durability, and demonstrates that we have clinical excellence − that our referring doctors and patients trust us,” stated the chief of the Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery Service and professor of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery at William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital, Michael Wait. UT Southwestern’s Lung Transplant Program recently obtained new “ex vivo perfusion” technology to improve the examination and viability of donor lungs.

Both Wait and Torres believe that the program is able to continue growing and expanding its capabilities with new techniques and technologies, as well as to help advance transplant medicine and patient care. “We are the only lung-transplant center in the state using this technology to test organs that otherwise could not be used for transplant,” added Torres.

Organ transplant is a key therapeutic option for patients with severe PH, a rare lung disease that causes the abnormal flow of blood between the heart and the lungs, provoking difficulties in breathing and leading to right heart failure. However, in order to fulfill the need for organ transplants, organ donations are also crucial to helping patients who suffer from these conditions.

In April, Pulmonary Hypertension Association has engaged in one of its most important advocacy missions to date, Donate Life Month, to encourage people to become organ donors and be aware of the need for early screening, diagnosis, and treatment of PH. The association was focused on highlighting the importance of organ donation by sharing personal stories about how organ donation can make a major impact in a PH patient’s life.