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Format: 04/25/2014
Format: 04/25/2014


AGH Liver Transplantation Program Receives Medicare Certification

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Allegheny General Hospital’s (AGH) liver transplantation program has become certified by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), a vital government seal of approval recognized as the highest quality indicator for a transplant program. The certification promises to significantly enhance AGH’s role as a leading referral center in the western Pennsylvania region for the treatment of end-stage liver disease.

Medicare and Medicaid patients, as well as patients whose private insurance criteria for liver transplantation coverage includes CMS certification, will now be able to choose AGH for such care, according to hospital officials.

“CMS certification for liver transplantation is an important milestone for our transplant program, for AGH, and most importantly, for the people of Western Pennsylvania. This certification will greatly expand our ability to serve patients in the greater community. We can provide a better continuity of care for our current liver patients, and offer an exceptional new choice to patients in Western Pennsylvania who are in need of advanced liver care,” said Ngoc Thai, MD, PH.D, director of AGH’s Center for Abdominal Transplantation and Liver Disease.

CMS is the federal agency responsible for administering Medicare, Medicaid and other health-related programs.

To earn the agency’s certification as a site for liver transplantation, AGH’s program underwent a rigorous review process that assessed the hospital’s clinical expertise and patient outcomes, as well as all protocols related to donor selection, organ recovery, patient education and selection criteria.

Since establishing its program in November of 2007, AGH has performed 24 liver transplants. Dr. Thai said transplant recipients at the hospital have had an average MELD score of 30 or higher, underscoring the program’s focus on the most acutely ill patients as defined by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).

MELD, which stands for the Model for End-Stage Liver Disease, is a numerical scale, ranging from 6 (less ill) to 40 (gravely ill). It gives each patient a “score” based on how urgently he or she needs a liver transplant in the next three months.

According to Jose Oliva, MD, medical director of the hospital’s liver transplantation program, AGH’s liver transplant outcomes are among the best in the country in terms of both complication rates and patient survival.

“This certification is a testament to the outstanding quality of care that this program affords,” Dr. Oliva said. “Our goal as an integrated team of physicians, nurses and adjunct staff is to provide patients and their caregivers with an unsurpassed level of personalized, state-of-the art clinical care and support services. CMS approval of the program is a resounding affirmation of that commitment and the high standard of care we have achieved.”

In addition to Drs. Thai and Oliva, other key members of the liver transplant team include transplant surgeon Kassum Tom, MD, and chief anesthesiologist Michael Dishart, MD.

“Though newly established in the region, this program offers patients access to a surgical and medical team whose expertise and experience rivals most in the nation,” said Paul Lebovitz, MD, director of West Penn Allegheny Health System’s Division of Gastroenterology.

Liver transplantation is the second most common transplant procedure performed in the U.S. Over the past decade, the number of people waiting for liver transplantation has increased nearly ten-fold, to approximately 17,000 today. There are currently more than 2,500 people on the waiting list liver transplantation from the tri-state region of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

Dr. Lebovitz estimates that approximately 40-50% of AGH’s patient referrals to date for liver transplantation evaluation have required direction to other medical centers because of CMS certification criteria. Those cases will now be accepted at AGH.

The hospital is also CMS certified for heart, kidney and pancreas transplantation.

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