Two patients who had liver transplants this month have become the first to have the surgery at Allegheny General Hospital, officals annouced today.
Christine Berman, 28, of Robinson Township became the first patient to have a liver transplant at the hospital November 1st, officals said.
Another patient who had a transplant November 8th is recovering, and hospital spokesman Dan Laurent.
Both surgeries were performed by Dr. Thomas Cacciarelli, director of liver transplantation at the hospital, and Dr. Mark Roh, chairman of surgery.
Mr. Laurent emphasized Dr. Cacciarelli's expierance in liver transplantation. He is also the chief liver transplant surgeon at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare Center.
Allegheny General also has hired another liver transplant surgeon, Dr. Ngoc Thai, formly of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Dr. Thai will also perform transplants at Allegheny General after a non-compete provision of his contract with UPMC expires next June 30, Mr. Laurent said.
Allegheny General, which alreadys performs heart, kidney and pancreas transplants, announced plans to establish a liver transplant program last year even though UPMC has on of the world's foremost liver transplant centers.
Mr. Laurent said Allegheny General annually refers 20 to 30 patients to other hospitals for liver transplant evalution. Some have been served by hospitals in other cities because their health insurance doesn't cover procedures at Allegheny General.
Allegheny General hopes to keep those patients and attract others by offering an alternative.
Traveling to another center for evaluation, particularly in another state, can be a hardship for very sick patients, said Dr. Paul Lebovitz, director of gastroenterology at the hospital.
"The ability to now meet their transplantation surgical needs is a tremendous advantage," he said.
More than 17,000 people are waiting for liver transplants, including more that 1,400 in Pennsylvania, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.