News

Emory Transplant Center Awarded Grant to Reduce Disparities in Access to Transplant

two peopleThe National Institutes of Minority Health and Health Disparities has awarded $2.6 million over five years to the Emory Transplant Center and six other transplant centers and organizations in the Southeastern Kidney Transplant Coalition. The funding will continue the RaDIANT (Reducing Disparities in Access to Kidney Transplantation) Community Study in Georgia for another five years and expand it to South Carolina and North Carolina.

Emory Transplant Center epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Patzer, director of the transplant health services and outcomes program at Emory, is principal investigator of the grant and Dr. Stephen Pastan, medical director of the kidney and pancreas transplant program, is chair of the Southeastern Kidney Transplant Coalition and a study co-investigator.

“The grant will go a long way to help us expand some of the work we are doing in Georgia dialysis facilities and include North Carolina and South Carolina, with an emphasis on improving patient access to referral for a transplant evaluation,” says Dr. Patzer. “Our prior work showed that our interventions in the RaDIANT Community Study found that referral for transplantation nearly doubled and racial disparities were reduced. Now we will test whether we find similar effects in a larger, regional population.

Georgia and the Southeast have the highest rates of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) of any state or region in the U.S., but the lowest transplant rates. While the Emory Transplant Center has some of the best kidney transplant patient and graft survival rates of any center in the country, too few ESRD patients, especially those who have already started dialysis, are able to take advantage of these benefits. Research published by Dr. Patzer’s group last fall suggested that low rates of referral for transplantation may be the reason so few ESRD patients receive the benefits of kidney transplants. The Southeastern Kidney Transplant Coalition’s goal is to ensure equity in every step of the transplant process, including referral, medical evaluation, waitlisting, and transplantation.

The Emory Transplant Center is a partner in the Southeastern Kidney Transplant Coalition, an academic- and community-based collaboration that shares the common goal of eliminating health disparities that limit access to kidney transplantation among African American ESRD patients living in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. The long-term goal of the coalition is to use community-based participatory research approaches to develop, test and disseminate interventions to improve transplant access.

cta-learn-blue

about kidney transplant and the Emory Kidney Transplant Program

Giving the Gift of Life: Former Marine Donates Kidney to National Guardsman

MarineGuardsmanPhotoThe Emory Transplant Center loves to share heartwarming stories that happen right here in our Center. As we celebrate Donate Life month, we would like to honor those who have graciously made the decision to give the gift life. Former Marine, Temple Jeffords, is one of those individuals. He made the decision to donate one of his kidneys to help out a fellow serviceman.

It all started with a plea for help via social media. Suffering with Stage 4 kidney disease, 28-year-old Dustin Brown, Army National Guardsman, relied on dialysis machines to rid his body of waste, salt and water that his failing kidneys could no longer do. Doctors told him a kidney transplant was needed.

Dustin connected with Kristi and Raleigh Callaway. Raleigh Callaway, a Greensboro, Georgia, police officer, received a new kidney in 2014 following a Facebook post publicly appealing for help.

Soon Brown, posing with his wife and five-year-old son, had a similar Facebook post on the Callaway’s page, desperately searching for a new kidney.

Former Marine, Temple Jeffords, saw the plea for help and contacted Kristi Callaway and the Emory Kidney Transplant Program. A few weeks later, 44-year-old Jeffords learned he was a match for Brown.

“I have never thought about donating a kidney to anyone, but when I saw another serviceman’s need for help, I wanted to help,” says Jeffords. “The testing and donating processes are simple.”

Living donor kidney transplants, such as this one, make the wait times shorter for critically-ill patients, while also providing the greatest chances for long-term success,” says Nicole Turgeon, MD, surgical director of the Paired Donor Kidney Exchange Program at Emory Transplant Center.

“I am so thankful for Temple,” said Brown, just days after his kidney transplant surgery. “Brothers in arms are always brothers, no matter what. He is a super hero in our family.”

Watch the story featured on ABC News here.

Watch the story featured on Fox News here.

cta-learn-blue
about kidney transplant and the Emory Living Donor Kidney Program 

Emory Transplant Center Receives Special Visit from Former NFL Player and Kidney Transplant Recipient

transplantThe Emory Transplant Center received a special visit from former NFL player Donald Jones, who received his own kidney transplant in 2013 following kidney disease. On Wednesday, March 16th, Jones visited with faculty and staff at Emory Transplant Canter and then went on to meet with kidney transplant patients at Emory University Hospital. It was quite a delight for our patients.

Jones was a wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills from 2010 to 2012. While playing with the Bills, he began developing high blood pressure and experienced some vision loss. Then the New England Patriots signed him in 2013. But only a few months later, he was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy, a kidney disorder that occurs when IgA, a protein that helps the body fight infections, settles in the kidneys. Treatment for the disorder is dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Jones retired from the NFL in August 2013 at just 25 years old. In December 2013, Jones received a life-saving kidney transplant from his father. Since then, he has been traveling the country raising awareness and fundraising for kidney disease and IgA nephropathy.

Emory Transplant Center faculty and staff had the opportunity to attend a book signing of Jones’ recently published autobiography, The Next Quarter: Scoring Against Kidney Disease. And Emory kidney transplant recipients Robert Burns and Angela Parks, both from Decatur, were delighted to have Jones drop by their Emory University Hospital rooms.

While at Emory, Jones was also interviewed for an educational video about dialysis and kidney transplantation. Rachel Patzer, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of surgery in Emory University School of Medicine and Rollins School of Public Health, recently received funding to develop a video following her research study about kidney transplant rates, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in August 2015.

The study found only about one in four patients with end-stage renal disease in Georgia was referred by a dialysis facility to a transplant center for evaluation within one year of starting dialysis. Patzer hopes the video will educate dialysis patients about transplant as a treatment option and encourage patients to discuss transplant with their providers and family members.

The video, once released, will be distributed to dialysis centers throughout the U.S. that have low rates of transplant or racial disparities in access to transplant.

cta-learn-blue
about kidney transplant and the Emory Kidney Transplant Program

Emory Transplant Center Ranks 7th Nationally

The Emory Transplant Center ranks 7th among transplant programs across the nation based on adult transplant volumes. In calendar year 2014, we performed 441 adult transplants that placed us 7th overall, tied with Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Our top 10 ranking puts us among good company.

 

 

 

 

 

And with the recent release of the latest Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR) data, it revealed that all Emory solid organ programs, when risk-adjusted, are similar to if not statistically different from the national data and meet expectations for performance set by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) Membership Professional Standards Committee (MPSC).

The new SRTR center-specific data included the following one-year graft and patient survival rates for our patients:

Heart:
Patient survival rate: 90.4% (actual) vs. 90.75% (expected)
Graft survival rate: 80.95% (actual) vs. 84.3% (expected)

Kidney:
Patient survival: 98.1% (actual) vs. 97.4% (expected)
Graft survival: 95% (actual) vs. 94.4% (expected)

Kidney/Pancreas:
Patient survival: 100% (actual) vs. 97.9% (expected)
Graft survival: 100% (actual) vs. 95.8% (expected)

Liver:
Patient survival: 93.8% (actual) vs. 91.6% (expected)
Graft survival: 91.7% (actual) vs. 89.2% (expected)

Lung:
Patient survival: 84.7% (actual) vs. 87.1% (expected)
Graft survival: 84.5% (actual) vs. 90% (expected)

*adults; cohort 1/1/12 – 6/30/14 (deaths and re-transplants were counted as graft failures)

Also of note, the Emory Kidney Transplant program’s three-year graft survival remains statistically greater than expected (p < 0.05) with outcomes of 89.48% (actual) vs. 86.29% (expected).

Our experience coupled with continued excellent outcomes in all solid organ programs make the Emory Transplant Center a leading transplant destination in the Southeast and the nation, serving patients in Georgia and bordering states. We are proud to be your transplant center.

Site Visits Show Emory Transplant Center’s Patients are in Excellent Hands

GoldSeal_4colorSuccess in a transplant center is measured by many standards — high patient and graft survival rates, satisfied patients and quality care, to name a few — but Emory really does stand out
when national regulatory agencies come for required site visits. Three agencies, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the Joint Commission (TJC) and the Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), visited the Emory Transplant Center (ETC) this year. Their hard work was evident in the positive comments we received from the surveyors.

For the first time in ETC’s history, the Joint Commission surveyed hospital-based outpatient clinics during their site visit in July – this included both the ETC’s Outpatient Transplant Clinics at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital and the Emory Clinic.

“The surveyor was happy with the nurses’ notes on a sample procedure stating, ‘This is the only chart I have ever read that has all the information I was looking for when a patient is being discharged from the clinic after a procedure.’ She was impressed.”, reports Joji Taganajan, nurse manager.

Our CMS re-certification survey was conducted the last week of April. The reviewers surveyed Emory’s heart, kidney, liver, lung, and pancreas programs, examining medical records for documentation of the multiple CMS conditions of participation, reviewing ETC policies, practices, and quality assessment and performance improvement (QAPI) programs. All five transplant programs were re-certified.

Additional good news came to the programs on July 13 in the form of letters from the UNOS Membership and Professional Standards Committee (MPSC). The MPSC reported results of its routine on-site review of the programs, conducted by the UNOS staff the week of January 26. The purpose of the survey, which is conducted every three years, is to review and analyze transplant program compliance with UNOS/OPTN (Organ Procurement and Transplant Network) policies. All ETC programs passed with scores between 92 and 100.

A heartfelt thank you goes out to all our transplant staff, faculty and leadership who provide our patients and families excellent clinical care on a daily basis, while achieving impressive quality outcomes and meeting the multiple federal regulatory requirements for transplant centers.

Emory Transplant Center Celebrates National Minority Donor Awareness Week

multi-ethnicAugust is a good time to honor our minority donors who make the benefits of transplantation possible. National Minority Donor Awareness Week, celebrated annually on August 1-7, is a nationwide observance to honor the generosity of multicultural donors and their families, while also underscoring the critical need for people from diverse communities to become organ donors.

The Emory Transplant Center is committed to bringing attention to the critical need for organ donors. The need for minority donors is especially profound.

2014 Statistics:

  • 58% of individuals on the national organ transplant waiting list were comprised of minorities (this number includes Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, American Indians, Pacific Islanders and people of multiracial decent)
  • 32%
of all deceased donors were minorities
  • 42%
of all those receiving transplants were minorities
    (Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services)

We would like to honor minorities who have been donors, and encourage others to register as donors. A greater diversity of donors may potentially increase access to transplantation for everyone. For more information, please visit organdonor.gov and “Why Minority Donors Are Needed.”

Emory Liver Transplant Program Raises the Bar

transplant quality measuresAccording to the December 2014 Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR) report, Emory’s adult and pediatric liver transplant program is the second busiest in the nation, establishing the Emory Liver Transplant Program as a leader across the U.S. This feat is made more remarkable by the fact that while volume in the adult program has more than doubled over the past six years, survival outcomes have also dramatically improved, according to the SRTR data.

The Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR) is a national database of transplant statistics. The registry evaluates both the scientific and clinical status of solid organ transplantation for all programs across the nation. This includes the number of transplants performed, wait-list candidates, transplant recipients, and survival statistics for each program.

The liver teams at the Emory Transplant Center and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta performed 145 adult and 18 pediatric liver transplants (one of which was from a living donor) in calendar year 2014. This is up from a total of 91 adult and pediatric transplants in 2008.

In the most recent SRTR report, Emory’s one-year adult patient and graft survival rates were 92.8% and 89.8%, respectively, both rates were higher than expected. We credit this to the team of talented and committed individuals who work hard work each and every day.

“We have come a long way over the years in the adult program, increasing volume while still improving outcomes,” says Dr. James Spivey, medical director of the program. “Much of the credit goes to a restructuring of our clinical teams to improve outcomes and increase quality of care, productivity of our teams and efficiency in the transplant process for patients. For example, we were able to increase waitlist additions. Through the generous gift of organ donation, this has helped result in increased transplant rates in recent years.”

Changes to the UNOS Kidney Allocation System

Organ Donation Wait TimeThe Emory Transplant Center would like to share with our transplant community some important changes to the kidney allocation system managed by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). As many of you know, UNOS manages the nation’s organ transplant system and helps make the best use of donated organs. More specifically, the UNOS Kidney Committee had been meeting regularly to discuss an improved kidney allocation system which resulted in the UNOS Board of Directors approving a new kidney matching system that took effect on December 4, 2014.

Under the previous system, how long a person had undergone dialysis prior to being placed on the wait list did not count. But with this new system, it has changed.

“One of the major differences is that now you will be given credit for your dialysis time that will be added on to the time you’ve been on the waiting list,” says kidney transplant surgeon Dr. Nicole Turgeon of the Emory Kidney Transplant Program.

If you began dialysis before you were listed, your wait time will be backdated to the day you began dialysis. Dr. Turgeon says the new guidelines could really help many longtime dialysis patients.

Here are some important points to note with the new system:

  1. The time you spend waiting for a kidney is still a major factor in organ matching.
  2. You will not lose credit for any time you have already spent waiting.
  3. If you began dialysis or met the medical definition of kidney failure at the time you were listed for transplant, your waiting time will not change.
  4. If you began dialysis before you were listed for a kidney transplant, the time between beginning dialysis and being listed will be added to your waiting time.
  5. People who have the longest potential need for a transplanted organ and those who have been difficult to match under the current system will receive greater priority under the new system.
  6. The new system should provide more transplant opportunities, so that everyone has a better chance to be transplanted.

“It is big news for our patients. I think it’s really going to help them in terms of getting better access to transplants,” says Dr. Turgeon.

UNOS continues to monitor the system closely to make sure it is meeting the needs of patients. For more detailed information about the new kidney allocation system, visit the UNOS website at www.unos.org.

AJC Features Emory Transplant Center Patients Freed of Type 1 Diabetes

islet transplant patientThe Emory Transplant Center is one of just a handful of institutions around the world performing islet transplants as a type 1 diabetes treatment. Emory is currently the only islet cell transplant program in Georgia, with 19 patients receiving islet transplants to date.

Islet cell transplant is still in the research phase awaiting Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval so the surgery will no longer be experimental. Read a story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution featuring two Emory patients who have been diabetes free for a decade now thanks to islet transplant at Emory.

Learn About Islet Transplants

What Are Islets?
Islets are insulin-producing cell clusters found in the pancreas, which is a six- to ten-inch organ that lies behind the stomach. Each islet cluster is about the size of a grain of salt and contains a few thousand cells. A healthy pancreas has approximately a million islet clusters.
Glucose is the fuel that provides energy to cells. Insulin allows glucose from the bloodstream to enter cells. Without insulin, cells are deprived of fuel, and they begin to starve. As the cells starve, the level of glucose in the bloodstream rises to dangerous levels.
In type 1 diabetes, islets in the pancreas are destroyed by the body’s immune system. Without islets, the body cannot produce insulin. People with type 1 diabetes require several injections of insulin each day. They must follow a strict diet and monitor their blood glucose carefully. Sometimes, even the most diligent patients cannot completely control their blood sugar levels. Diabetes that is very difficult to control is called brittle diabetes.

Why Islet Transplantation?
Islet transplantation can restore insulin production by replacing the islets that have been destroyed. When insulin production is restored, blood glucose levels stabilize, and the health risks associated with low and high blood sugars are greatly reduced.

What Is an Islet Transplant?
The islet cell transplant process begins when islets for transplantation from a donated pancreas become available. During the islet transplantation procedure, the islets are infused into a blood vessel that leads to the liver. The islets from the pancreas are also separated from other cells through a highly complex process called “islet isolation.” The islets are then infused and lodged into the liver of the recipient, where they are able to detect the level of glucose in the blood and produce the correct amount of insulin. Recent advances in islet isolation have resulted in sustained insulin independence in people with type 1 diabetes, which may make islet transplantation more common in the foreseeable future.

Emory University Hospital Midtown Honors Organ Donors

Emory Hospital Donate LifeEarlier this month, team members from Emory University Hospital Midtown gathered on the steps of the hospital to recognize and celebrate organ donors.

Currently, there are more than 120,000 men, women and children in the United States who are waiting on an organ transplant. Though transplantation saves thousands of lives each year, there are always many more people in need of a transplant than there are organ donors. With that in mind, a team of nurses, chaplains and staff have boosted efforts to raise awareness of organ donation.

“Organ donation is a difficult thing to talk to families about, especially when they’re facing the sadness of losing a loved one,” explained Sheila Taylor, RN, an intensive care nurse and the nurse champion for organ donation awareness at Emory University Hospital Midtown. “It is so important to share with people just how many lives organ donation can save.”