IU School of Medicine faculty helps adult liver transplant program achieve 3rd rank in U.S.
Indiana University Health was ranked the third-best adult liver transplant program in the U.S. in 2018 based on transplant volume as well as patient outcomes. For Chandrashekhar A. Kubal, MD, PhD, associate professor of surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine and surgical director of the adult liver transplant program at IU Health, this accolade only deepens the desire to maintain the standard of excellence the program has built through the years, and continue to improve on that legacy through instructing tomorrow’s surgeons.
For patients suffering from liver failure, time is their worst enemy. According to Kubal, the impressive ranking of IU School of Medicine’s liver transplant program provides a sense of solace to Hoosiers and those traveling from out of state in need of the procedure. Unlike kidney failure, for which patients often have the option of going on dialysis while they wait for a transplant, with liver failure the transplant operation is the only way forward.
While the success of the program is a piece of excellent news for patients, it also gives, residents and fellows an opportunity to train in a program with a high volume of transplants, as well as one with a high survival rate.
“This is a very highly specialized medical field. Our general surgery residents and abdominal transplant surgery fellows get so much exposure, so many training opportunities that they will leave here well-trained,” Kubal said. “There’s an excellent opportunity for residents and fellows to learn because of the volume of transplants that we do. As an example, fellows need to do about 45 liver transplants in two years to get their certificate. Our fellows here get that in about four months.”
Kubal asserted that IU School of Medicine faculty continually takes steps to improve the program, including implementing new techniques used in surgery.
“In the last two years, the program has increased the number of adult split liver transplants performed,” Kubal said. “When we receive a liver from a donor, we may then split the liver—a smaller piece can be used for a child, and the remaining lobe can be used for an adult.”
Kubal also explained his hopes to improve the program by exploring the idea of living donor liver transplants.
“Living donor liver transplantation, in my mind, is necessary because there’s always going to be a gap between organs we get from deceased organ donors and demand for transplant organs,” Kubal said. ”About 14,000 patients are waiting for a liver transplant in any given year. To meet that demand, I want to bring in living donor transplantation. It’s being done successfully in other countries and at other centers in the U.S.”
This kind of innovative thinking ensures IU School of Medicine surgical residents and abdominal transplant surgery fellows will have access to a cutting-edge training opportunity.