“Piedmont started doing transplants in September of 1986,” says Mark Johnson, M.D., program director and chairman of the Piedmont Transplant Institute. “Dr. John Whelchel came over here from Emory to start up the kidney transplant program.
Now offering transplant services for liver, kidney, pancreas and heart patients, the Piedmont Transplant Institute completes nearly 100 liver and 150 kidney transplants each year.
“That puts us in the top 10 to 15 percent of all programs in the country,” says Dr. Johnson.
Piedmont transplant surgeons are skilled in multiorgan transplants, which not every transplant program offers, he adds.
“One of the things that Piedmont has tried to do that was unique and special is look at the better-performing practices across the country when we started the Institute,” he says. “One of the things that became evident was that to have good clinical outcomes, we had to have specialists in transplant. All of our surgeons here are multiorgan-trained in surgery and that makes us much more of a cohesive team.”
The Institute has some of the shortest wait times and best outcomes in the country.
“Overall, it’s been the team approach,” says Dr. Johnson. “Everybody is dedicated to the transplant recipient and their outcome. Because of that, we’ve been able to have better than national averages and better than expected outcomes.”
The paired donation program
For patients who do not have a family member or friend who is a good donation match, Piedmont offers a paired donation program.
“Patients will come in with a family member or friend who isn’t the right match for that recipient,” says Dr. Johnson. “Usually it’s by blood group. If we have two people who want to donate a kidney, but don’t match their partner, we will pair them up so that donor from one family might donate to the other family. The donor from that family might then donate their kidney to the first family. That’s called paired donation.”
The paired donation process can spark a domino effect as people donate because their loved one received a kidney from someone else. Hear the story of three families who benefitted from this special program.
HLA lab benefits
Piedmont has an onsite human leukocyte antigen (HLA) lab, which allows the transplant team to test the compatibility of organs to the recipient before surgery occurs.
“That is a great sign of the breadth and depth of the Transplant Institute here at Piedmont, and what it has grown to,” he says.
Dr. Johnson says he’s proud of the Piedmont Transplant Institute’s work and success rates.
“Organ donation and tissue donation is the gift of life and transplantation is passing that gift on to somebody else and giving them a second chance at life,” he says. “It’s an amazing field to be in.”
For more information, visit the Piedmont Transplant Institute.