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Published on January 10, 2017

Avera Transplant Institute Performs First Liver Transplant in South Dakota

The first ever liver transplant in South Dakota’s history took place at the Avera Transplant Institute.

“The historic opening of the liver transplant program is life-changing news for patients, families and loved ones,” said Jeffery Steers, MD, Avera Medical Group transplant surgeon. “This is the culmination of a continued process to develop a full-scope liver program in Sioux Falls that will save lives as well as hundreds of miles of travel for patients who need this level of care.”

Liver transplant is now added to Avera’s other abdominal organ transplant programs. Avera has the Dakotas’ longest-standing kidney transplant program, launched in 1993, and only pancreas program. Avera Transplant Institute is also home to the Dakotas’ only bone marrow transplant program. In total, Avera Transplant Institute has performed more than 1,000 transplants.

As verification of its readiness to offer liver transplant, Avera Transplant Institute earned active program status for liver transplant from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) in October 2016.

No other health system in the region has the same depth of expertise and experience that includes integration with hepatology, interventional radiology, pathology, oncology, gastroenterology and many other medical disciplines within a single institution. More than a dozen Avera physicians hold transplantation fellowships in addition to nephrology, hepatology, hematology or surgery certifications.

“Thanks to Avera’s commitment to build an expert specialty team, a new level of care is available to patients who need it – right here in Sioux Falls,” said Dave Kapaska, DO, Regional President and CEO of Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center.

“The first liver transplant performed at Avera went well and we look forward to future success of this program. I commend our entire transplant team for their detailed planning and hard work that helped us achieve this milestone.”

Transplant programming also has led to the development of unique services at Avera such as the state’s only tissue typing laboratory. Avera has also acquired the latest technology to support transplant. One example is thrombelastographic haemostasis analyzer (TEG) technology, which specifies the exact type of blood cells that patients need during surgery, reducing the overall volume needed for blood transfusions.

“Liver disease is becoming more common. It’s very treatable if we catch it early, so not everyone with liver disease needs a transplant. Yet for those who do, we now offer it here,” said Hesham Elgouhari, MD, Avera Medical Group hepatologist. “Years of effort were needed in order to establish the groundwork for this program. Avera has already been providing specialized liver care, including pre- and post-transplant care. We’re thrilled that we can now offer a full continuum of care, including transplantation.”

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