Avera launches first liver transplant program in South Dakota

This piece is brought to you by Avera Health.

When Avera Health was given the green light to perform liver transplants, surgeon Jeffery Steers describes the feeling in one word:

Relief.

“It was hard knowing there was a patient we could help, but couldn’t yet do the transplant here in Sioux Falls,” said Dr. Steers.

“For many people in this situation, a liver transplant is all they need to go on to live a healthy, happy life.”

Avera Transplant Institute in Sioux Falls recently completed South Dakota’s first liver transplant, adding another organ to its robust transplant program and providing new hope to patients.

Previously, a patient needing a new liver would have been referred hundreds of miles away.

The problem is, the call for a transplant can come any time. The recipient needs to be ready fast and can expect several days of hospital and outpatient care.

“The benefits of adding liver transplant here in Sioux Falls are clear.  The farther you are from the transplant center, the more difficulties patients have,” Steers said.

In South Dakota, 30 to 40 patients each year are put on a waiting list for a liver transplant. Others wait in bordering states North Dakota and Wyoming, which don’t have liver transplant programs.

There’s reason to be optimistic Avera’s new program will dramatically improve lives. Liver transplant patients have an 80 to 90 percent survival rate one year after transplant, compared with 60 percent as recently as the 1990s.

“In my 20 years working with liver transplants, results have improved dramatically,” Steers said.

Seeing results

Steers came to Avera in 2012 to help build a team that could meet federal requirements and handle the rigor and demands of a 24/7-transplant operation.

Avera Transplant Institute is inside Plaza 3 on the Avera McKennan campus.

Avera Transplant Institute has performed kidney, pancreas and bone marrow transplants for years, totaling more than 1,250 transplants. It also has provided specialized liver disease care while referring patients for transplants.

For Steers, who helped start a liver transplant program for the Mayo Clinic at a facility in Florida, it’s a life-altering experience for all involved.

Unlike kidney disease patients who can receive dialysis while waiting for a transplant, there is no alternative treatment for end-stage liver disease.

Steers remembers one patient who looked and felt miserable for five years leading up to his transplant, and like others he was transformed back to health.

“Months later, when he was back for a checkup, I walked right past him in the hallway — I didn’t even recognize him because he looked so different.”

Those are the moments that make medicine more a calling than a job. And the ones he knows he will see more of now that Sioux Falls can offer these transplants.

“A lot of things we do in medicine have an impact that is less dramatic,” Steers said. “With transplant I feel, without a shadow of a doubt, that I have changed someone’s life and given them hope.”

To learn more visit AveraTransplant.org.

 

 

Avera launches first liver transplant program in South Dakota

Avera Transplant Institute in Sioux Falls recently completed South Dakota’s first liver transplant, adding another organ to its robust transplant program and providing new hope to patients.

News Tip

Have a business news item to share with us?

Scroll to top