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March Milestone in Organ Transplants for Cedars-Sinai

In March, the Comprehensive Transplant Center at Cedars-Sinai completed more organ transplants in one month than ever before in the 15-year history of the program.

"It's all hands on deck when the pace gets that intense," said Irene Kim, MD, surgical director of Kidney Transplantation. "Many people are involved making sure nothing is missed and that each one of our patients is ready for transplant."

Setting a record for Cedars-Sinai, 44 patients received new kidneys in March, double the monthly average for the past several years. In one week alone, surgeons completed 15 kidney transplants, including a handful of patients who received either a new liver or heart at the same time.

"In 2004, our first year, we did a total of 131 transplants and ranked No. 64 in the country in terms of volume," said Andrew S. Klein, MD, MBA,  the Esther and Mark Schulman Chair in Surgery and Transplantation Medicine and director of the transplant center.

"Last year we ranked No. 10 in the country and did 471 kidney, liver, heart, pancreas and lung transplants. That kind of growth is accomplished because our entire center is focused on providing the best possible care to every single patient," Klein said.

In addition to the record in kidney transplants for one month, surgeons also performed a lung transplant, nine heart transplants and 11 liver transplants.

One of the patients behind those numbers is Cliff Firooz, 35. Firooz had been receiving dialysis three times a week since 2011 and battled complications of kidney disease. He received the organ of a deceased donor last month.

"I am feeling the best I have felt in 10 years," said Firooz. "I sleep better. I am exercising again. I am so grateful. I feel like I got my life back. It is such a gift."

And it takes a team to provide that lifesaving help, said Tsuyoshi Todo, MD, a liver and kidney transplant surgeon.

"Transplant is the ultimate team sport," Todo said. "It's not just the surgeons that help these patients. Our roster is big and includes transplant coordinators, nurses, social workers, operating room and ICU teams, administrative staff and even physicians in our fellowship programs who fly around the country to retrieve organs."

Part of the growth in the program is due to an increase in referrals from physicians familiar with the research at Cedars-Sinai that improves the outcomes of patients at high risk for organ rejection.

"We've developed therapies to immunologically prepare patients, so a donated organ is not attacked by their highly sensitized defense system of antibodies some develop in response to dialysis, blood transfusions or previous transplants," said Stanley C. Jordan, MD, medical director of the Kidney Transplant Program and the Human Leukocyte Antigen and Transplant Immunology Laboratory.

Kim believes more records in transplant will be broken by the end of 2019 but says it's not just about the numbers.

"We want to prove to the community, and patients who need a transplant, that we offer excellent patient care before, during and long after surgery to offer the best possible outcomes,” said Kim.

Read More on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: Kidney Transplant Patient Ricki Gets a Third Chance