Transplant Services



Specializing Institutions

Organ transplantation is the moving of an organ from one body to another with the purpose of replacing a patient’s damaged or absent organ. Organs that can be transplanted are the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas, intestine and thymus. Tissue transplants also exist. Some of the most commonly transplanted tissues are bones, tendons, corneas, skin, valves and veins. The kidneys are the most commonly transplanted organs, followed closely by the liver and the heart. Not everyone is a good candidate for an organ transplant. Patients with infection, heart disease, drug or alcohol problems are not good organ transplant candidates. Organ transplants have been done in the United States since the 1950s. Today, transplants are more successful than ever. There are currently more than 100,000 people in the U.S. waiting for an organ.

There are many highly skilled transplant surgeons at The South Texas Medical Center. Our partner institutions that specialize in transplants offer advanced transplant services, perform pioneering research and foster a community of transplant survivors, donor families, specialists and social workers to support patients every step of the way. We also host the only living liver transplant facility in Texas. A living donation provides significant benefits to the patient starting with a shorter wait and an improved organ transplantation rate.

Transplant services at the South Texas Medical Center include bone marrow, kidney, liver, pancreas, heart, lung and adult stem cell transplants. Our institutions have exceptional patient outcomes and consistently meet and exceed nation averages. Institutions also offer pediatric transplant programs specializing in kidney and liver transplants. Transplant patients receive life-long care at the South Texas Medical Center.

Transplant Articles

  • Hospital patients rarely wash their hands, may spread disease

    By Madeline Kennedy

    NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Although healthcare workers are urged to wash their hands often and hand sanitizer dispensers are everywhere in hospitals, patients are less scrupulous and may be contributing to the spread of hospital-acquired infections, say Canadian researchers.

    After tracking hundreds of patients in a transplant ward for nearly a year, the study team found that hand washing followed less than a third of bathroom visits, and washing or hand-sanitizer use happened only rarely after patients entered or left a room.

    "We know that certain infections can be spread on people's hands, and hand washing is an important way to prevent those infections," said the study's lead author, Dr. Jocelyn Srigley, associate medical director of infection prevention and control at Hamilton Health Sciences in Hamilton, Ontario.

    One in 25 hospital patients has at least one infection contracted at the hospital at any given time, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC estimates there were 722,000 cases of hospital-acquired infection in 2011, many of them serious or even life-threatening.

    The role of healthcare workers in transferring infectious microbes from place to place and person to person in hospitals has been well-studied, and staff are trained to take measures to avoid spreading infections.

    But just two previous studies have looked at the potential for patients to spread infections in hospitals, to others and themselves, Srigley and her colleagues write in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

    The Canadian study team tracked 279 adult patients in a multiorgan transplant ward using tags attached to hospital ID bracelets that sent out ultrasound signals. Wireless receivers were installed throughout the ward to pick up the signals and track each patient's location. The system also detected every time a soap or hand sanitizer dispenser was used.

    They found that patients washed their hands about 30 percent of the time during bathroom visits, 40 percent of the time during mealtimes, 3 percent of the time while using kitchens on the wards, 3 percent of the time when entering their own rooms and 7 percent when exiting their room.

    Women washed their hands more often than men, and were more likely than men to use soap when they did. All patients were more likely to wash their hands later in the day than in the morning.

    Among 1,122 visits by 97 patients to the ward's two kitchens, only 3 percent involved hand hygiene and less than one percent involved soap.

    The researchers point to a previous study that found requiring patients to disinfect their hands four times a day significantly reduced the number of respiratory and gastrointestinal disease outbreaks in a psychiatric ward.

    Srigley noted that the ultrasound observation system was not perfect and one limitation was that it, "didn't know exactly what a patient was doing in the bathroom or when they were eating, so we don't know for sure that a patient should have washed their hands at that time."

    In addition, "not all patients agreed to wear the system tags so we don't know if the ones who wore the tags are reflective of all patients," Srigley said.

    Despite these limitations, the new technology used in the study eliminated the problem of people changing their behavior when they know they're being watched, said Dr. Yuen Kwok-yung, chair of Microbiology at the University of Hong Kong.

    Kwok-yung told Reuters Health by email, "The findings will provide important data for the formulation of hand hygiene policy."

    Srigley feels that hospitals should encourage patients to wash their hands at certain times, but she is not yet sure what would be the most effective method.

    Possibilities include "putting up posters, having someone talk to patients about hand washing, providing hand sanitizer or alcohol wipes at the bedside, etc.," she said, adding that more research is necessary to determine the most effective method.

    "The key message is that hand washing is an important way for people to protect themselves and prevent infections, whether they're in the hospital, at home, at work, or anywhere else," she said. "Especially with influenza season coming up soon, hand washing can help to keep us all healthy."

    SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1CnI4zB Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, Online October 2, 2014.

  • Cell transplant helps paralyzed man walk with frame

    By Kate Kelland

    LONDON (Reuters) - A Polish man who was paralyzed from the chest down in a knife attack can now walk with the aid of a frame after receiving pioneering transplant treatment using cells from his nose.

    The technique, described as a breakthrough by a study in the journal Cell Transplantation, involved transplanting what are known as olfactory ensheathing cells into the patient's spinal cord and constructing a "nerve bridge" between two stumps of the damaged spinal column.

    "We believe... this procedure is the breakthrough which, as it is further developed, will result in a historic change in the currently hopeless outlook for people disabled by spinal cord injury," said Geoffrey Raisman, a professor at University College London's (UCL) institute of neurology, who led the research.

    The 38-year-old patient, Darek Fidyka, was paralyzed after suffering stab wounds to his back in 2010. Following 19 months of treatment, he has recovered some voluntary movement and some sensation in his legs, his medics said.

    The Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation, a British-based charity which part-funded the research, said in statement that Fidyka was continuing to improve more than predicted, and was now able to drive and live more independently.

    Raisman, a UCL spinal injury specialist, worked with surgeons at Wroclaw University Hospital in Poland to remove one of Fidyka's olfactory bulbs, which give people their sense of smell, and transplant his olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) and olfactory nerve fibroblasts (ONFs) into the damaged area.

    They used a nerve bridge constructed between the two stumps of the damage spinal column, they said in the study.

    OECs are a type of cell found in both the peripheral and central nervous system. Together with ONFs, they make bundles of nerve fiberes that run from the nasal mucosa to the olfactory bulb, where the sense of smell is located.

    When the nerve fibers that carry smell become damaged, they are replaced by new nerve fibers that re-enter the olfactory bulbs, the researchers explained in their study.

    OECs help this process by re-opening the surface of the bulbs for the new nerve fibers to enter - leading Raisman and his team to believe transplanting OECs into the damaged spinal cord could enable severed nerve fibers to re-grow.

    Raisman added that the technique of bridging the spinal cord with nerve grafts from the patient had been used in animal studies for years, but never before in combination with OECs.

    "The OECs and the ONFs appeared to work together, but the mechanism between their interaction is still unclear," he said in a statement about the work.

    Experts not directly involved in the work said its results offered some new hope, but said more work needed to be done to figure out what had led to this success, and more patients treated, before its potential could be properly assessed.

    "While this study is only in one patient, it provides hope of a possible treatment for restoration of some function in individuals with complete spinal cord injury," said John Sladek, a professor of neurology and pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in the United States.

    Raisman and his team now plan to repeat the treatment technique in between three and five patients over the next three to five years. "This will enable a gradual optimization of the procedures," he told Reuters.

    SOURCE: http://bit.ly/ZMtGV6 Cell Transplantation, online October 21, 2014.

  • REFILE-Giving pricey hepatitis drug to prisoners may be financially wise

    (Revises para 23 to clarify quote.)

    By Andrew M. Seaman

    NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - When prisoners have hepatitis C, treating them with expensive new antiviral drugs makes fiscal sense despite the hefty pricetag, according to a new study.

    Based on computer models, new pricey drug combinations that treat hepatitis C infections were more cost-effective than older drug combinations and no treatment at all, researchers found.

    "Essentially what our model does is follow a hypothetical cohort of prisoners that looks like a prison population in the U.S.," Jeremy Goldhaber-Fiebert told Reuters Health.

    "It allows us to ask a variety of 'what-if' questions and probe how sensitive our findings are to various factors," said Goldhaber-Fiebert, the study's senior author from Stanford University in California.

    Hepatitis C is a viral infection of the liver that is typically transmitted when the blood of an infected person enters the body of a healthy person. (Most commonly, this happens when people share needles, syringes, or other equipment to inject drugs - but before 1992 hepatitis C was also transmitted by blood transfusions.)

    When people are first infected, the symptoms can include fever, nausea, stomach and joint pain, dark urine, vomiting and a yellowing of the skin and eyes.

    If left untreated, hepatitis C can slowly, over years or decades, lead to liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer, and a need for liver transplant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It may also lead to death.

    The CDC says about 3.2 million people in the U.S. are infected with the chronic disease. Goldhaber-Fiebert and his colleagues write in Annals of Internal Medicine that about 500,000 incarcerated people have hepatitis C.

    Until recently, the virus was treated with a combination of drugs that had to be taken for about a year and caused people to have flu-like symptoms. The treatment was only effective in a minority of patients.

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Merck's Victrelis, which is known generically as boceprevir, in 2011 to be added to the existing combination of drugs. The new combination made the treatment more effective - and more expensive (see Reuters story of May 13, 2011 here: http://reut.rs/1yg9GGm).

    Then, the FDA approved Gilead's Sovaldi, which is known generically as sofosbuvir, in 2013. The drug is taken for 12 weeks and cures a majority of patients but comes with a price tag of $84,000 (see Reuters story of December 6, 2013 here: http://reut.rs/1ygcAuT).

    Insurers have pushed back against the price of the new medication (see Reuters story of May 20, 2014 here: http://reut.rs/1ygfGPx).

    To examine benefits and costs associated with hepatitis C treatment among the U.S. prison population, the researchers used a computer model. They compared prisoners who received 12 weeks of Sovaldi plus the original drug combination, prisoners who received 28 weeks of Victrelis plus the original drug combination and prisoners who did not receive treatment.

    They examined costs of treatment in terms of quality-adjusted life years (QALY), which is the amount of time in good health that inmates could gain from the treatment.

    Overall, they found the combination of Sovaldi and the original drugs added 2.1 QALYs at a cost of about $54,000, compared to no treatment.

    The combination including Sovaldi cost about $25,700 per QALY gained among prisoners serving short sentences and about $28,800 per QALY gained among those serving long sentences. The difference in cost can be partially attributed to various factors, including the increased risk of reinfection among people still in prison, Goldhaber-Fiebert said.

    In either case, he and his colleagues found Sovaldi combination of drugs to be less expensive per QALY than the Victrelis combination.

    However, there are other challenges when choosing a hepatitis C treatment for prisoners, the researchers write.

    For example, treating U.S. prisoners infected with hepatitis C with the Sovaldi combination may come at an upfront cost exceeding $30 billion to the prison systems. The cost benefits may not be realized until the prisoners are released on another healthcare system like Medicaid, which is government-run insurance for the poor.

    "Most people in will be out," said Dr. Anne Spaulding. "We're looking at a disease that will take 30 years to progress. A lot of hepatitis C that we're not treating in the prison will end up being very costly not just for patients who are on Medicaid, but patients who do not have Medicaid who present to emergency rooms. Someone will have to pay."

    Spaulding, who wasn't involved with the new study, is an expert on hepatitis C infections among U.S. prisoners. She's an assistant professor at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta.

    The U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons currently recommends Sovaldi for many prisoners with hepatitis C infections.

    "I think the key message would be to those who control state budgets," said Spaulding. "There are benefits to considering the health of people returning to the community. There are benefits to treating hepatitis C while they're incarcerated."

    "The group that can have the most affect on increasing the new infections of hepatitis C is actually the injection drug users," she said. "If you can get rid of the hepatitis C while they're in prison, they can't spread hepatitis C when they're in the community."

    "It's a message that needs to go to the decision makers who control the purse strings," she said, adding that this is especially true for people who control state budgets.

    Goldhaber-Fiebert said prisons and jails in the U.S. should give careful consideration to the hepatitis C treatment for the population that they provide services to.

    "High-cost treatments can also be high-value if they deliver substantial enough value," he said.

    SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1zjAkCK Annals of Internal Medicine, online October 20, 2014.

  • REFILE-Giving pricey hepatitis drug to prisoners may be financially wise

    (Revises para 23 to clarify quote.)

    By Andrew M. Seaman

    NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - When prisoners have hepatitis C, treating them with expensive new antiviral drugs makes fiscal sense despite the hefty pricetag, according to a new study.

    Based on computer models, new pricey drug combinations that treat hepatitis C infections were more cost-effective than older drug combinations and no treatment at all, researchers found.

    "Essentially what our model does is follow a hypothetical cohort of prisoners that looks like a prison population in the U.S.," Jeremy Goldhaber-Fiebert told Reuters Health.

    "It allows us to ask a variety of 'what-if' questions and probe how sensitive our findings are to various factors," said Goldhaber-Fiebert, the study's senior author from Stanford University in California.

    Hepatitis C is a viral infection of the liver that is typically transmitted when the blood of an infected person enters the body of a healthy person. (Most commonly, this happens when people share needles, syringes, or other equipment to inject drugs - but before 1992 hepatitis C was also transmitted by blood transfusions.)

    When people are first infected, the symptoms can include fever, nausea, stomach and joint pain, dark urine, vomiting and a yellowing of the skin and eyes.

    If left untreated, hepatitis C can slowly, over years or decades, lead to liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer, and a need for liver transplant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It may also lead to death.

    The CDC says about 3.2 million people in the U.S. are infected with the chronic disease. Goldhaber-Fiebert and his colleagues write in Annals of Internal Medicine that about 500,000 incarcerated people have hepatitis C.

    Until recently, the virus was treated with a combination of drugs that had to be taken for about a year and caused people to have flu-like symptoms. The treatment was only effective in a minority of patients.

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Merck's Victrelis, which is known generically as boceprevir, in 2011 to be added to the existing combination of drugs. The new combination made the treatment more effective - and more expensive (see Reuters story of May 13, 2011 here: http://reut.rs/1yg9GGm).

    Then, the FDA approved Gilead's Sovaldi, which is known generically as sofosbuvir, in 2013. The drug is taken for 12 weeks and cures a majority of patients but comes with a price tag of $84,000 (see Reuters story of December 6, 2013 here: http://reut.rs/1ygcAuT).

    Insurers have pushed back against the price of the new medication (see Reuters story of May 20, 2014 here: http://reut.rs/1ygfGPx).

    To examine benefits and costs associated with hepatitis C treatment among the U.S. prison population, the researchers used a computer model. They compared prisoners who received 12 weeks of Sovaldi plus the original drug combination, prisoners who received 28 weeks of Victrelis plus the original drug combination and prisoners who did not receive treatment.

    They examined costs of treatment in terms of quality-adjusted life years (QALY), which is the amount of time in good health that inmates could gain from the treatment.

    Overall, they found the combination of Sovaldi and the original drugs added 2.1 QALYs at a cost of about $54,000, compared to no treatment.

    The combination including Sovaldi cost about $25,700 per QALY gained among prisoners serving short sentences and about $28,800 per QALY gained among those serving long sentences. The difference in cost can be partially attributed to various factors, including the increased risk of reinfection among people still in prison, Goldhaber-Fiebert said.

    In either case, he and his colleagues found Sovaldi combination of drugs to be less expensive per QALY than the Victrelis combination.

    However, there are other challenges when choosing a hepatitis C treatment for prisoners, the researchers write.

    For example, treating U.S. prisoners infected with hepatitis C with the Sovaldi combination may come at an upfront cost exceeding $30 billion to the prison systems. The cost benefits may not be realized until the prisoners are released on another healthcare system like Medicaid, which is government-run insurance for the poor.

    "Most people in will be out," said Dr. Anne Spaulding. "We're looking at a disease that will take 30 years to progress. A lot of hepatitis C that we're not treating in the prison will end up being very costly not just for patients who are on Medicaid, but patients who do not have Medicaid who present to emergency rooms. Someone will have to pay."

    Spaulding, who wasn't involved with the new study, is an expert on hepatitis C infections among U.S. prisoners. She's an assistant professor at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta.

    The U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons currently recommends Sovaldi for many prisoners with hepatitis C infections.

    "I think the key message would be to those who control state budgets," said Spaulding. "There are benefits to considering the health of people returning to the community. There are benefits to treating hepatitis C while they're incarcerated."

    "The group that can have the most affect on increasing the new infections of hepatitis C is actually the injection drug users," she said. "If you can get rid of the hepatitis C while they're in prison, they can't spread hepatitis C when they're in the community."

    "It's a message that needs to go to the decision makers who control the purse strings," she said, adding that this is especially true for people who control state budgets.

    Goldhaber-Fiebert said prisons and jails in the U.S. should give careful consideration to the hepatitis C treatment for the population that they provide services to.

    "High-cost treatments can also be high-value if they deliver substantial enough value," he said.

    SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1zjAkCK Annals of Internal Medicine, online October 20, 2014.