Swedish Medical Center to do liver transplants
The state Supreme Court has denied an appeal by the University of Washington Medical Center to remain the region's sole provider of liver transplants. Swedish Medical Center is expected to start performing liver transplants early next year.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Swedish Medical Center is expected to begin performing liver transplants early next year, after the state Supreme Court denied an appeal Thursday by the University of Washington Medical Center to remain the region's sole provider of the delicate procedure.
The UW filed the appeal after Swedish won state approval in 2004 to open a liver-transplant center. The UW argued that a second transplant provider in Seattle could reduce the number of procedures at its elite facility and ultimately affect the quality of care.
High volumes of transplants are generally linked to better outcomes.
But Swedish said a second transplant center in Seattle would fill an "unmet need," allowing more transplant patients to stay in the Northwest and keeping excess donor livers from being sent to other regions.
"This gives patients a choice on where they receive their care. It opens up access to patients," said Brian Kuske, Swedish's chief administrative officer.
For years, UW has been the sole provider of liver transplants in Washington. The only other Northwest program is in Portland.
The UW program, which has performed more than 1,300 transplants since it started nearly 20 years ago, is regarded as one of the nation's best.
After Thursday's ruling, UW released a statement lamenting the court's decision.
"This is about quality outcomes for patients. Transplant procedures are highly complex, and distributing the limited number of organs across two programs may not result in more transplants," the statement read.
Swedish rejected the claim that a second liver-transplant center in the city would hurt UW's success rate.
"Multiple areas around the country have multiple liver-transplant programs," Kuske said. "The quality and outcome of those programs remain high."
Officials at Swedish argued that UW's standards for judging viable recipients for liver transplants have been too stringent.
Swedish is expected to accept liver-transplant candidates that UW may have rejected.
"Different program around the country have different standards," Kuske said. "We might be able to take patients with a little higher risk."
Patients in need of liver transplants are placed on waiting lists, on which their rankings are determined according to their health. Transplant centers try to avoid performing transplants on patients who are unlikely to survive long after the operation.
Though Swedish's standards for liver-transplant recipients will be less-stringent, Kuske said the quality of the livers they use in transplants will be the same.
Liver transplants, which are often done to save the lives of people with diseases such as hepatitis C that cause scarring on the liver, cost roughly $500,000, not counting post-transplant follow-up care.
Swedish, which already performs kidney and pancreas transplants, has prepared a facility and acquired the equipment for liver transplants. Officials there will spend the rest of the year training staff and formulating program standards.
"This helps Swedish continue to grow," Kuske said. "This is a continuation of our solid organ transplant program."
Doctors at Swedish are expected to perform 10 to 20 transplants during their first year. That number is projected to increase to roughly 50 per year once the program reaches maturity in its third year.
Robert Faturechi: 206-464-2393 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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