Nationwide, eight hospitals and centers have participated in the liver trial with TransMedics. VCU Health is the first in Virginia. (File photo)

VCU Health, TransMedics conducting clinical trial to test warm storage of donated livers

Trial uses device that keeps organs warm instead of cold, and allows monitoring of organ function before transplant.

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Editor’s note (June 21): VCU Health successfully completed the first liver transplant in Virginia using the TransMedics warm perfusion device on June 15.

In the United States, 14,000 people are waiting for a liver transplant. Aiming to increase the number of viable donor livers, the VCU Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center will participate in a clinical trial with TransMedics Inc. to more quickly test the functionality of a donated liver.

TransMedics’ Organ Care System, or OCS, preserves organs opposite of how hospitals have been preserving them for decades. While most organs held for transplant are stored cold, stopping the metabolic process, the OCS preserves them warm, perfused with nutrient-enriched blood at their natural temperature, allowing the organs to metabolize and function outside the body on their way to being transplanted in a patient. The TransMedics OCS has similar products for lung and heart transplants.

“In Virginia, there are about 200 candidates currently waiting to receive a liver transplant. The TransMedics system will allow us to transplant patients faster, safer and with better outcomes,” said Trevor W. Reichman, M.D., Ph.D., surgical director of the liver transplant program, including pediatrics and the living liver donor program in the Hume-Lee Transplant Center. “Because the OCS allows livers to remain functional outside of the body, the liver can recover from damage before it is transplanted into a patient resulting in less injury.”

VCU Health is the first site to participate in the trial in Virginia. Massachusetts General Hospital and Emory University are the other sites on the East Coast. The VCU transplant center will begin testing this summer and plans to continue the use of OCS after the trial is complete. Nationwide, eight hospitals and centers have participated in the liver trial with TransMedics.

Marlon Levy, M.D.
Marlon Levy, M.D.

“We have a 60-year history of outstanding outcomes and innovation in transplant care. With access to the TransMedics technology, we can further improve the quality of a transplant organ, and possibly increase the number of viable donor livers that we can use for transplant, shortening the wait list,” said Marlon Levy, M.D., director of the Hume-Lee Transplant Center, chair of the Division of Transplant Surgery at VCU Health, and vice chair of the Department of Surgery in the VCU School of Medicine.

The VCU Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center commemorated its 5,000th lifesaving transplant surgery in 2017.