UofL and Jewish Hospital achieve 300th lung transplant

Published on September 27, 2018

The Jewish Hospital Trager Transplant Center and the University of Louisville are celebrating an important milestone – the 300th lung transplant performed at the hospital since the lung transplant program began there 27 years ago.

“Three-hundred lung transplants is a significant milestone for Jewish Hospital Transplant Care,” said Chris Jones, M.D., director of the Transplantation Program at Jewish Hospital and chief of the division of Transplant Surgery at University of Louisville Physicians and the UofL School of Medicine. “We recognize the selfless sacrifice of all organ donors, celebrate the improved lives of our organ recipients, and recognize the impact of everyone on the transplant team for their lifesaving and life-changing work.” 

The 300th lung transplant was performed Tuesday, Sept. 18, on a 71-year-old man from northern Kentucky who suffered from pulmonary fibrosis. The patient was on the transplant list for two months before undergoing a lung transplant. The surgery was performed by Victor van Berkel, M.D., Ph.D., surgical director of the Lung Transplant Program at Jewish Hospital and chief of Thoracic Surgery at UofL Physicians and the UofL School of Medicine.

“Each year, we are performing more and more lung transplants at Jewish Hospital, and it is exciting to hit this milestone as this momentum continues,” said Dr. van Berkel, “When I first started, we were doing between five to 10 lung transplants a year. Now we are closer to 20 lung transplants a year, and we’re trying to grow that even further.”

The first lung transplant at the hospital took place in 1991, and the first double lung transplant in 1995. Since then, transplantation has seen significant advancements in anti-rejection medications, surgical techniques and other technologies, helping Jewish Hospital achieve one-year survival rates higher than the national average.

In 2017, the Jewish Hospital Trager Transplant Center’s program with UofL became the first transplant program in Kentucky, and only the second program in the region, to begin offering Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion (EVLP). EVLP is a leading-edge technology that allows for an expansion of the Lung Donor Pool that will allow more patients to receive lifesaving lung transplants.  

“The Jewish Hospital and UofL transplant team are helping save lives in our community each day,” said Ronald Waldridge, M.D., president of Jewish Hospital. “The team is one of the leading providers of organ transplantation in the United States, and milestones like the 300th lung transplant remind us how important this work is daily. We’ve come so far since the first lung transplant in 1991, and we’re looking forward to many more lives impacted.”

On Thursday, doctors and lung transplant recipients gathered at the Jewish Hospital Rudd Heart and Lung Center to celebrate the 300th milestone and the many lives that have been saved over the years thanks to lung transplantation. 

“When I first started my training, we used to have a firm age limit of 65. That was the absolute limit for transplantation,” said Allan Ramirez, M.D., medical director of the Lung Transplant Program at Jewish Hospital and a pulmonologist with UofL Physicians and assistant professor at the UofL School of Medicine. “These days, we are extending that age and our oldest recipient got their lungs at age 75, so we are continuing to push the envelope in terms of being able to offer transplants to older patients, and patients who are sicker who we would not have considered doing a transplant on 5 to 10 years ago.”

Dr. Jill Jacobs is among the 300th lung recipients at Jewish Hospital. Jacobs was the 271st recipient, and was also a double lung transplant recipient. Jacobs says she smoked cigarettes for about 40 years, and by the time she stopped, had already developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).  

“I had the transplant in February of 2017,” Jacobs said. “I have been extremely happy and grateful that I had doctors who have given me my life back. They’ve given me a new life, in fact.”

Jacobs said before the transplant, she couldn’t even do simple things, like getting dressed, without being short of breath. She says the Jewish Hospital Trager Transplant Center has helped change her life.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am that I went to Jewish to have this done,” Jacobs said. “It’s a gift nobody can believe. It’s a miracle, in my opinion. A miracle.”

Earlier this year, the Jewish Hospital Trager Transplant Center – a joint program with the UofL Physicians, the UofL School of Medicine and KentuckyOne Health – also celebrated its 500th heart transplant. In addition to Kentucky’s first heart transplant, the program is known for performing Kentucky’s first adult pancreas, heart-lung and liver transplants.

For information on the Jewish Hospital Trager Transplant Center, visit www.kentuckyonehealth.org/transplant-care.