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2021: A Record Year for Transplants

During Pandemic’s Second Year, Cedars-Sinai’s Transplant Teams Complete the Most Solid Organ Transplants in Its History

Amid the uncertainty of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Cedars-Sinai Comprehensive Transplant Center and Smidt Heart Institute together completed 573 solid organ transplants in 2021, surpassing 2020’s count of 529 and achieving a new record for the medical center.

“These increased volumes are a reflection of our teamwork, our commitment to our patients and the generosity of the organ donors and donor families,” said Irene Kim, MD, director of the Comprehensive Transplant Center and associate professor of Surgery. “It is such a privilege to care for transplant patients, who get more time with their families and the opportunity of a better quality of life.”

The Cedars-Sinai Lung Transplant Program, led by Joanna Chikwe, MD, chair of the Department of Cardiac Surgery in the Smidt Heart Institute, demonstrated the biggest leap. The team performed three times more lung transplants than it did in 2020.

These lung transplants also brought several firsts, including minimally invasive double lung transplants that employed a new surgical technique developed at the Smidt Heart Institute. Cedars-Sinai also performed its first COVID-19 lung transplant, followed by several more that year. The team's analysis of these transplants—and the national COVID-19 lung transplant experience—was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Expanding our lung transplant program has a direct impact on our patients,” said Reinaldo Rampolla, MD, medical director of the LungReinaldo Rampolla, MD Transplant Program, who medically oversees all lung transplant patients pre- and post-operation. “The more we have to offer our patients—including treatment options, research advances and surgical procedures—the more we can get patients back to their everyday lives.”

Liver surgeons, under the leadership of Nicholas Nissen, MD, director of Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Surgery, and Alexander Kuo, MD, professor of Medicine and medical director of the Liver Transplant Program, performed 113 liver transplants, beating 2018’s record of 112 liver transplants.

Cedars-Sinai surgeons also completed an impressive 269 kidney transplants and 11 dual kidney/pancreas transplants, along with two transplants of a pancreas alone.

Over the past five years combined, the Smidt Heart Institute has completed more heart transplants than any other U.S. medical center, which totaled 602.

“Although the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the healthcare system and patient lives, we have continued progressing our HeartJoanna Chikwe, MD Transplant Program and its nationally-recognized capabilities,” said Chikwe, the Irina and George Schaeffer Distinguished Chair in Cardiac Surgery and professor of Cardiac Surgery at Cedars-Sinai.  

The Cedars-Sinai multidisciplinary team includes physicians, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, physician assistants, dietitians, technicians, perfusionists, researchers and many others who are all committed to the successful transplantation of its patients.

“We could not do this work without the contribution of every individual on the transplant team,” Kim said. “I am grateful for the dedication of our staff every single day.”

Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: Holiday Gift: Patient Gets New Heart and Kidney