Quality of Life Improves for Organ Transplant Recipients

Critically ill children who undergo organ transplants today are more likely than ever to recover and return to their schools, playgrounds and a quality of life that in many cases is virtually indistinguishable from that of friends who have never faced a life-threatening disease.

Cory Scott is living proof. The 15-year-old returned to his Jacksonburg, W.Va., home less than two months after his heart, ruined by cardiomyopathy, was replaced with a donor heart at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on Aug. 15, 2002. He had been kept alive on a mechanical ventricular assist device for several weeks before the surgery.

In January 2003, Cory returned to school. By the spring, he was working out with the Valley High track team.

Transplant Patient Outcomes Improve

Each child is different and many factors, from health to home life, can influence the outcomes of transplantation.

But higher rates of survival and a better quality of life are being reported among recipients of all organs - outcomes driven by advances in organ preservation, surgical technique, immunosuppression and post-operative care.

The clinical outcome of most transplants, for example, is largely determined by the ability to control rejection of the transplanted organ. Certain drugs are used to suppress the body’s immune system, which would otherwise respond to a transplanted organ by attacking it. Over the years, improvements to these anti-rejection drugs and how they are used has led to dramatically higher survival rates and a better quality of life after transplantation.

At UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, the outcomes of transplant patients improved markedly with the use of FK506 (also known as Prograf® or tacrolimus) as the primary immunosuppressant, beginning around 1990. Patient outcomes continue to improve with the introduction of strategies that include therapies that avoid the use of steroids in post-surgical treatment and, in some cases, the attempt to wean transplant patients off anti-rejection drugs altogether.

Learn more about Transplantation Research at the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute.