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:

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

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

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

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

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 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

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.”

100,000 People are Waiting for a Kidney. Learn More About Emory’s Paired Donor Exchange Program

Paired Donor Exchange ProgramDid you know that there are nearly 100,000 people on the kidney transplant waiting list? With the average wait time for a kidney now at four years, patients are often eager to seek other options to waiting on a deceased donor kidney so that they can get back to living a healthy life. Fortunately, with today’s medical advances, a living or a deceased person can donate a kidney.

The Emory Transplant Center launched its Kidney Paired Donor Exchange Program in 2010 and has been participating in the National Kidney Registry since 2012. Join Nicole Turgeon, MD, associate professor of surgery, Emory University School of Medicine and surgical director of the Paired Donor Exchange Program on April 8 for an online live chat to learn how paired donor exchange works, what it takes to become a donor and how paired donor exchange is helping patients dramatically improve their quality of life.

Chat Sign Up

10 Years and Still Diabetes Free – Islet Cell Transplant Patients Celebrate Anniversary of Life-Changing Procedure

islet-trans-patients“I feel free. I feel normal.” That’s what Emory Transplant Center patient Laura Cochran says of her life since having a pancreatic islet cell transplant to treat her brittle Type 1 diabetes.

Last week, Cochran, along with the Emory Transplant Center team and fellow patient Rob Allen, gathered to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of their participation in a clinical trial for their severe Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas ceases to produce insulin, a hormone that allows people to get energy from food. Type 1 diabetics must take insulin every day to live.

Both Cochran and Allen were diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as young adults. Allen’s diabetes was controlled with insulin injections for about 10 years until his episodes of low blood sugar became more frequent and more severe. As for Cochran, as her diabetes progressed, she developed hypoglycemia unawareness, where her blood sugar would drop so low so quickly, that she didn’t recognize how low her sugars were. She often became dazed during these episodes and had to be watched at all times. While both benefitted some from insulin pumps, they still needed more relief. Fortunately, they were candidates for a clinical trial at Emory where donor pancreatic islet cells were transplanted to restore insulin production in people with Type 1 diabetes.

Cochran and Allen each received two islet cell transplants from two different organ donors, several months apart. After the first transplant, they both still needed small amounts of insulin injections. After the second transplant, neither Cochran nor Allen needed insulin injections. Both have been insulin free since 2004.

“We transplanted just two teaspoons of islet cells into these patients 10 years ago, and they no longer need insulin injections,” says Christian Larsen, MD, DPhil, professor of surgery in the Division of Transplantation at Emory, and dean of Emory University School of Medicine. “This has been a miraculous transformation.”

Researchers are awaiting FDA approval of islet cell transplants so that the surgery will no longer be experimental. Once approval is obtained, surgeons can perform these transplants on patients who meet the criteria.

“The best part about the islet cell transplants is not having to worry daily about my blood glucose levels getting out of control,” says Allen. “It has been an amazing thing.”

Related Resources

Emory Islet Transplant Program
Islet Transplant For Type 1 Diabetes? Julie Allred’s Story

Emory Transplant Center Executive Director Elected to National Council by Peers

Dr. Thomas C. Pearson

Dr. Thomas C. Pearson

Thomas Pearson, MD, DPhil, executive director of the Emory Transplant Center, has been elected by organ donation professionals as incoming associate councillor of the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network and United Network for Organ Sharing (OPTN/UNOS) Region 3. Each of the 11 OPTN/UNOS regions has an associate councillor who serves as the regional representative to its national Membership and Professional Standards Committee. This committee oversees transplant community membership, policy and regulatory compliance and makes recommendations to the board regarding policy violations.

“Since 1991, Tom has been a valued friend and colleague at Emory and an esteemed transplant surgeon, bench and clinical researcher,” says Christian Larsen, MD, DPhil, dean of Emory University School of Medicine, former executive director of the Emory Transplant Center and a current kidney transplant surgeon. “But he also is internationally respected as a transplant immunologist, educator and transplant advocate, establishing many protocols in place today. He is perfectly suited to this role at OPTN/UNOS Region 3.”

Pearson, who is surgical director of the kidney transplant program at Emory and the Livingston Professor of Surgery, joined the Emory faculty in 1991. Together, with long time collaborator Larsen, they played a pivotal role in developing a new class of immunosuppressive drugs to replace the cyclosporine class of drugs and their major side effects and toxicities. The FDA approved the co-stimulation blocker called belatacept in June 2011 for kidney transplant recipients. This was the first time a new class of drug had been approved for transplant since the 1990s.

After Pearson’s term as associate councillor ends in 2016, he will assume the role of councillor for an additional two-year term of service (2016-2018), representing Region 3 on the OPTN/UNOS board of directors. Pearson also serves as medical director of LifeLink of Georgia, is a member of the Board of Governors for the LifeLink Foundation and is a board member of the American Society of Transplantation.