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Orlando, Pittsburgh physicians save teen’s life with Central Florida’s first pediatric liver transplant

A team of surgeons from Florida Hospital and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC performed Central Florida’s first pediatric liver transplant, saving the life of a local teenager.

The health care systems are pleased to announce the child was just released from the hospital and is continuing his recovery at home. The teen’s identity is not being disclosed to protect his privacy.

Florida Hospital for Children and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC launched a partnership in late 2017 to make lifesaving pediatric liver transplants available throughout north and Central Florida. Prior to the partnership, the only active pediatric liver transplant program in Florida was in Miami.

“We knew there was a critical need for children across Florida to have access to a liver transplant program that is close to home. Our patient came to us in acute liver failure, and fortunately, we aren’t far from his house,” said Dr. Regino P. Gonzalez-Peralta, director of pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology and liver transplantation with Florida Hospital for Children. “We’re thrilled that the patient is doing well and back home with his family.”

The teen was the first pediatric patient placed on the OPTN/UNOS national transplant wait list by Florida Hospital, and his surgery was performed May 7 — just days after being listed.

Four physicians (two surgeons, an anesthesiologist and a pediatric intensivist) as well as a team of operating room and intensive care nurses, traveled from Pittsburgh to Orlando to perform the surgery alongside counterparts from the Florida Hospital team — represented by both Florida Hospital for Children and the Florida Hospital Transplant Institute.

“Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC has the benefit of 37 years of pediatric liver transplant experience, and we are proud of our role as a pioneer and innovator in the field of pediatric transplantation,” said George V. Mazariegos, M.D., chief of pediatric transplantation at Children’s. “We’re honored to be able to share our experience and expertise with our colleagues in Florida in order to make life-saving transplantation a more viable option for residents of Central Florida.”

Physicians with the Hillman Center for Pediatric Transplantation at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC have performed more than 1,800 pediatric liver transplants — more than any other center in the United States, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, with patient survival rates consistently higher than national averages.

The Florida Hospital Transplant Institute is one of the busiest transplant centers in the state, offering kidney, liver, kidney/pancreas, lung and heart transplants. The adult liver transplant program has one of the best outcomes in the U.S.

“We are honored to partner with our esteemed colleagues at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and hope to recreate their world-class pediatric liver transplant program in Central Florida,” said Dr. Thomas Chin, director of the Florida Hospital Transplant Institute’s liver transplant program. “There are no machines or procedures that can replicate the liver’s functions, and so when the organ fails, transplant is the only option. We’re privileged to bring this service to families in Florida and the Southeast.”