St. Luke’s Hospital revives its liver transplant program

The on-again, off-again liver transplant program at St. Luke’s Hospital is starting up once more.

The hospital announced it has appointed surgeon Jameson Forster, one of the founders of the highly successful liver transplant program at the University of Kansas Hospital, to head its transplant team. Forster performed the first liver transplant in Kansas. He also helped establish the liver transplant program at Children’s Mercy Hospital.

In March, St. Luke’s said it had temporarily suspended its 3-year-old liver transplant program because its surgical director, Henry Randall, had left. St. Luke’s patients who were on the waiting list for a liver transplant were transferred to other programs.

Forster leaves a KU Hospital transplant program that has grown steadily since its start in 1990. Not counting Forster, the program has four liver transplant surgeons; a fifth surgeon is expected to join KU on July 1. Last year, the hospital performed 114 liver transplants, placing it among the 10 largest programs in the nation.

St. Luke’s performed seven liver transplants in 2013, according to federal records.

St. Luke’s also has a kidney transplant program and is the only area hospital doing heart transplants.

This is the second attempt by St. Luke’s to establish a liver transplant program. The hospital started a program late in 1991, but it performed only eight transplants, federal records show. Just two of those patients were still alive when the hospital closed the program in 1993. St. Luke’s officials said at the time that its patient volume wasn’t meeting expectations.

KU Hospital’s program got off to a quicker start, performing considerably more transplants and gaining approval for Medicare patients in 1995. By the end of last year, KU had completed more than 1,100 liver transplants.

To reach Alan Bavley, call 816-234-4858 or send email to abavley@kcstar.com.