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News Releases

For Immediate Release

Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Improves Organ Transplantation Through New Technologies/Changes to Allocation System

Organ transplant advancements celebrated during National Donate Life Month in April

Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh - the nation's first and largest pediatric transplant center - is at the forefront of worldwide efforts to improve organ transplantation, both through the development of new therapies and technologies as well as through strategies to improve organ allocation.

Children's is achieving the nation's highest patient survival rates among pediatric transplant centers through innovative approaches to managing rejection. These approaches include steroid-free immunosuppression - pioneered in Pittsburgh - and new tools to quickly diagnose and treat organ rejection.

Children's transplant physicians are building on these successes through their involvement in a variety of national projects to improve outcomes from organ transplantation.

Organ Allocation
Nationally, approximately 18 people die each day waiting for an organ transplant because of a shortage of organs available for transplant. More specifically, one in three children listed for an intestinal transplant will die without ever receiving a transplant. To overcome such grim statistics, two Children's transplant surgeons are serving as members of national committees empanelled to improve the allocation of organs.

George V. Mazariegos, MD, director of Pediatric Transplantation at Children's, is a member of the United Network for Organ Sharing's Liver/Intestine Committee and Chair of the Liver and Intestine Committee of the American Society of Transplantation. Kyle Soltys, MD, a Children's transplant surgeon, is a member of the Organ Breakthrough Collaborative, a project of the federal Health Resources and Services Administration aimed at improving the allocation system for all organs.

"Children's has performed more than 1,800 transplants since Dr. Thomas Starzl started our program 25 years ago. It is humbling to consider that in the face of a tragedy like loosing a child, so many families made the heroic decision to let their child become an organ donor," Dr. Mazariegos said. "As transplant surgeons, we are continuing to develop new ways to alleviate the organ shortage, such as living-related and split-liver transplants, but we need to improve the system for allocating organs so that the organs go to those in most dire need."

In addition to improving organ allocation, physicians at Children's are leading efforts to develop new treatments and technologies for organ transplantation that will improve patient survival and quality of life.

Ventricular Assist Devices/Heart Transplantation
Under the leadership of Steven Webber, MBChB, medical director of Pediatric Heart and Heart-Lung Transplantation, Children's has established itself as one of the most active and innovative centers in the country over the last two decades. Children's has performed more than 300 heart, heart-lung, lung and heart-liver transplants in children, including more than 200 heart transplants.

Children's is one of the world's most experienced centers in the use of ventricular assist devices (VADs) to support pediatric transplant patients awaiting donor hearts. These mechanical support devices help our patients grow stronger and healthier before surgery, improving their chances for a full recovery.

To extend such technology to infants too small for a traditional, adult-sized VAD, Children's currently is collaborating with the University of Pittsburgh Department of Bioengineering, Carnegie Mellon University, UPMC, LaunchPoint Technologies and World Heart Corporation, to develop a fully implantable mechanical heart pump the size of a nickel (one of only five centers in the nation to receive National Institutes of Health funding for such a project).

As a stop-gap measure until a pediatric VAD is developed and approved for use, Children's is one of only a handful of hospitals in the United States to have won emergency approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to implant a Berlin Heart (four patients at Children's have received Berlin Hearts). The Berlin Heart, developed in Germany, is an external pump that can be used in small children.

Lung transplantation milestone
Children's has achieved an important milestone in lung transplantation under the leadership of Geoffrey Kurland, MD, medical director of Pediatric Lung Transplantation. In November 2005, surgeons at Children's performed the hospital's 100th lung transplant, making it one of the most active pediatric lung transplant centers in the country.

The recipient was Sean Hernandez, a 7-year-old from New York City who developed lung disease as an infant. Sean received a double-lung transplant and was discharged from Children's in December. He is doing well and recovering at home with his mother and father, Faye and Joseph.

Survival Rates
Children's is achieving the nation's highest patient survival rates among pediatric transplant centers for many types of organ transplants, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (based on one-year survival rate).

Children's National Average
Liver 98 percent 90 percent
Intestine 96 percent 79 percent
Heart* 89 percent 80 percent
Lung 100 percent 85 percent
Kidney 100 percent 98 percent
. based on three-year survival rate

Editor's note: Representatives from Children's transplant program will be present in the hospital's cafeteria between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Monday, April 17, Wednesday, April 19, and Friday, April 21, to answer questions about organ transplantation and to sign up donors. For more information on Children's transplant program, please visit

Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-7919 or 412-692-5016,
Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5502 or 412-692-5016,

Last Update
June 17, 2008
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Last Update
June 17, 2008