Vanderbilt surpasses its previous annual record for solid organ transplants, establishing it as the fifth-largest transplant center in the nation.

The solid-organ transplant program at Vanderbilt Transplant Center (VTC) completed 739 lifesaving procedures through its adult and pediatric organ transplant programs in 2023, surpassing its previous annual record of 645 transplants in 2021.

This establishes the VTC program as the fifth-largest in the nation by volume as ranked by UNOS. Started in 1962, the center had completed more than 12,000 transplants of organs by the end of 2023.

“Organ transplantation has a rich history at Vanderbilt,” said Joseph Magliocca, M.D., professor of surgery and director of the Vanderbilt Transplant Center. “The institution has made a firm commitment to providing access to life-saving organ transplants for as many patients as possible, while achieving the highest quality outcomes.

“We strive to continue to be a national leader in organ transplantation in an environment that our faculty and staff are proud to be a part of.”

Year of Firsts

In 2023, VTC’s lung transplant team achieved two other notable accomplishments — a combined lung-kidney transplant and a combined lung-liver transplant.

In the lung-kidney transplant, which took place over 17 hours and involved dozens of specialists, the lung surgery was performed by Vanderbilt Lung Institute Surgical Director Matthew Bacchetta, M.D., and Chetan Pasrija, M.D., assistant professor of cardiac surgery. Laura Hickman, M.D., assistant professor of surgery, performed the kidney transplant.

“We will see continued growth in dual-organ transplant in the coming years. What makes this case unique is the fact that it was a lung re-transplant plus kidney. It is uncommon to perform reoperations in lung transplant, but Vanderbilt has taken on that increased challenge with great success,” Bacchetta said.

In the lung-liver transplant, the lung transplant was performed by Bacchetta, with Seth Karp, M.D., H. William Scott Jr. Professor and chair of the Section of Surgical Sciences, completing the liver surgery.

“Our ability to perform these transplants sets us apart from many other transplant centers in the region and allows us the opportunity to transplant complex patients who might not be able to be transplanted elsewhere,” said Heidi Schaefer, M.D., medical director of adult solid organ transplant.

Other records were set in both the adult and pediatric transplant programs.

In adult transplant, teams performed 319 kidney transplants (including eight kidney-pancreas procedures), 128 heart transplants (including two heart-lung procedures), 152 liver transplants, and 95 lung transplants (including two heart-lung procedures.)

Pediatric transplant teams with Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt performed 17 liver transplants, 15 heart transplants and 14 kidney transplants.

“As one of the largest transplant centers in the U.S., we continue to provide excellent outcomes for our patients,” Schaefer said.

Adapted from an article by Matt Batcheldor in the VUMC Reporter.

About the Expert

Portrait of Joseph Magliocca, in dark suit, blue shirt and tie. Glasses, dark hair and brown background

Joseph Magliocca, M.D.

Joseph Magliocca, M.D., is a professor of surgery in the Division of Hepatobiliary Surgery and Liver Transplantation at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and director of the Vanderbilt Transplant Center. His research interests include pediatric liver diseases, organ preservation, ischemia/reperfusion injury and management of immunosuppression following transplantation.

Heidi Schaefer poses for a headshot in the Medical Center North photo studio Wednesday, March 30, 2022 at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

Heidi M. Schaeffer, M.D.

Heidi M. Schaeffer, M.D., is a professor of medicine in the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and medical director of the Adult Solid Organ Transplant Center. She played a key role in the growth of Vanderbilt’s kidney transplant program, and her research includes numerous pharmaceutical clinical trials for kidney disease.