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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Survival Rates Exceed National Averages for Houston VA Liver Transplant Program

January 10, 2013

The survival rates for patients receiving liver transplants at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) exceed national averages at statistically significant levels according to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients.

"The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center’s program for the treatment of liver disease is among the most advanced in the country,” said Samir S. Awad, M.D., Operative Care Line executive and an associate professor in the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine. “Given that we provide excellent care for Veterans with end-stage liver disease preoperatively and postoperatively, the ability to meet their transplantation surgical needs is a tremendous advantage.”

According to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, the MEDVAMC Liver Transplant Program’s one-year patient survival rate is 97.06 percent, compared to an expected survival rate of 90.30 percent and the national hospital average of 89.53 percent. The program’s three-year patient survival rate is 83.33 percent, compared to an expected survival rate of 73.93 percent and the national hospital average of 79.85 percent. The expected survival rate reflects the health condition of the program’s transplant patients.

Besides being the busiest surgery program in the Department of Veterans Affairs, MEDVAMC is well-known for tackling the most complex surgical cases, with patients usually older and in poorer health than other hospitals. Featuring advanced robotic surgery technology, the hospital’s surgery department was the first VA to use a computerized, operating room real-time location system to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of day-of-surgery operations by directly coordinating and supporting surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, patients, family members, and related support personnel and activities.

“We see these patients first, and they are sicker than you can imagine,” said Blase A. Carabello, M.D., Medical Care Line executive and the Moncrief Professor of Medicine and vice chairman in the Department of Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. “Our extraordinary team of doctors, nurses, and support personnel truly give these patients a second chance at life.”

The MEDVAMC transplant team, led by Liver Transplant Surgical Director John A. Goss, M.D. and Transplant Hepatologist Khozema Hussain, M.D., includes a full range of patient care and support personnel, and all are committed to achieving better-than-expected survival rates, according to Adam C. Walmus, M.H.A., M.A., F.A.C.H.E., Medical Center Director.

“Our outstanding surgery program, our talented, top-notch staff, and our successful Liver Transplant Program were three of the reasons the DeBakey VA was recently approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a Kidney Transplant Center,” said J. Kalavar, M.D., Medical Center Chief of Staff. “We constantly strive to provide Veterans the best health care anywhere.”

The MEDVAMC Liver Transplant Program began in 2007 and performed its 50th procedure on November 19, 2012. Transplants are the most advanced treatment for patients with severe, end-stage disease with no other effective, available medical or surgical treatments, according to clinicians.

Liver transplant candidates must undergo detailed physical, laboratory, and psychological evaluations to ensure proper selection and therapy. Tests are done to confirm the diagnosis of end-stage liver disease, to rule out other potential treatments, and to assess the candidate’s ability to tolerate surgery.