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Lung Transplant Program is Busiest in the West


Number of Lung Transplantations Continue to Rise for Nation’s Fifth Busiest Program

Outpacing long-established programs at major California and other western medical institutions, Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center is now home of the busiest lung transplant program in the western United States, ranked fifth in the nation. And, it’s on track to surpass last year’s record number of life-saving operations.

In recognition of the program's success, hospital staff, transplant recipients and donor families gathered last week to release 24 white doves in recognition of organ donors and the lives they impact.

The only facility in Arizona actively performing lung transplantations, St. Joseph’s Norton Thoracic Institute surgeons performed the hospital’s first lung transplant surgery only eight years ago. In this short history, more than 330 lung transplantations have been completed to date—a remarkable number reached by only a handful of the nation’s hospitals.

In 2014 Norton surgeons performed 73 lung transplantations, more than any other lung transplant program west of Houston, Texas, making it the fifth busiest program in the nation that year. The program has continued to improve as it ranked sixth busiest in the nation in 2013.  

The Institute’s annual lung transplant volume now surpasses that at major well-established facilities like University of California Los Angeles; University of California San Francisco Medical Center; Stanford University Medical Center; University of Colorado, Denver; University of Utah, Salt Lake City; and University of Washington, Seattle. The only hospitals in the nation performing more are Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Duke University, University of Pittsburgh and Houston Methodist Hospital.

“Our program has grown quickly and we are humbled and proud to have saved so many lives,” says Rajat Walia, MD, pulmonologist and medical director of lung transplantation at the Institute. “The numbers are impressive, but we are most proud of our outcomes and the quality of care we give to each individual patient. We know that centers with higher volumes tend to have better outcomes and our program is determined to push the frontiers of lung transplantation.”

Norton’s outcomes are strong with one-year survival rates above the national average—near 90 percent.

“Numbers don’t tell the whole story,” says Brandi Krushelniski, St. Joseph’s transplant administrator. “Lung transplants are among the most complicated surgical procedures and require precise, to-the-minute planning. Our expertise in quickly finding and procuring suitable organs has been key to our success.”

The Norton Institute’s lung transplant team selects candidates who are eligible and places them on the United Network for Organ Sharing transplant list. Surgeons have approximately six hours to transplant a lung once one is retrieved.  Following surgery, lung transplant recipients receive lifelong care and regular check-ups with pulmonary specialists.

Patients come to the Norton Institute at St. Joseph’s from throughout the country for their care. Prior to the launch of the St. Joseph’s program, many Arizona lung transplant candidates had to travel out of state for the complex procedure. Currently, nearly 1,700 people nationwide await a life-saving lung transplant. To learn more about registering as an organ donor, visit Donate Life online at dnaz.org. — St. Joseph’s

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