Managing the Transplant Process
For anyone preparing to undergo a major medical procedure, life can seem overwhelming. It is not unusual for an individual to feel alone or even out of the loop. Patients who choose University Hospitals Transplant Institute, however, will not be alone and we will help them to feel at ease throughout the process. Our program is designed to allow patients and their families to become active participants throughout all phases of the transplant experience, with the help of a well-trained staff to expedite pre-transplant evaluation, inpatient consultation and outpatient follow-up. Clinical transplant coordinators serve as case managers, making themselves available to patients and referring physicians 24 hours a day.
- Upon referral, the transplant coordinator arranges for the patient to meet with the appropriate transplant physician.
- The patient is educated about the implications of an organ transplant:
- What to anticipate during the various phases of recovery
- The effects the transplant is likely to have on daily living
- The new responsibilities that come with undergoing such a procedure, such as maintaining the antirejection drug regimen
- The patient’s history is reviewed and further evaluation or diagnostic testing is arranged as necessary.
- Liver, pancreas, heart and lung patients being considered for transplant who have received approval from the Transplant Patient Selection Committee are presented to the Ohio Solid Organ Transplant Consortium Patient Committee, which makes the final approvals (kidney patients are exempt from this).
Once a patient is accepted into the program, he or she will receive a transplant whenever the appropriate organ becomes available. If the patient is to receive a transplant from a living donor, the transplant will be performed when all the participants are ready to proceed. Other individuals are kept in constant touch with the institute through the transplant coordinator, whose regular telephone calls provide a means of answering questions, soothing concerns and monitoring the patient’s general health status.
Once an organ is donated, the transplant coordinator contacts the patient and schedules the surgery. Upon arrival at the hospital, the patient receives a physician examination, chest X-ray, electrocardiogram (EKG) and blood and tissue analysis, all to help verify compatibility with the donor and document continued suitability for transplant. At the same time, the transplant surgeon examines the donor-organ, checking its size and condition and weighing these variables against the age and medical status of both donor and recipient. Once the logistics have been managed and the teams assembled the transplant can proceed.
A Collaborative Recovery Program
The entire transplant team stays involved in the patient’s care even after the transplant has been completed. The transplant physician and surgeon determine the best medicines for each patient and decide whether patients qualify for innovative groundbreaking research protocols. They – along with the transplant coordinator, pharmacologist, staff nurse and social worker – also make regular visits to the patient during hospitalization. During these visits, the team assesses patient vital signs and progress, examines surgical incisions for healing or infection, measures graft function and discusses potential immunosuppression issues as well as discharge plans. The team also consults directly with patients and families to ensure that the care plan is meeting their needs.
Team members stay involved throughout the patient’s life. Once at home, the patient follows a comprehensive outpatient treatment plan coordinated by the University Hospitals transplant coordinator. Such a plan helps ensure the patient’s continued compliance and optimum health. Again, a transplant team staff member is always available to answer questions.
Communication With the Referring Physician
The referring physician’s insights can be critical to a patient’s successful recovery, so our team maintains close communication with the physician before, during and after transplant. This is achieved through written correspondence after inpatient and outpatient visits, phone calls and by sharing medical reports, which help keep the referring physician informed of the patient’s progress and condition. The transplant physician and referring physician may also collaborate to provide follow-up care and quality medical service throughout the patient’s life.
Transplantation is a lifelong process that can overwhelm patients and families with questions and challenges. To provide the best possible care to our patients, UH Transplant Institute offers a wide variety of support services including:
- Patient access services: provides patient financial counseling and clarification of insurance issues
- Social work services: serves as liaison to alternate care, durable/home medical care or equipment, and patient or family counseling
- Center for International Relations: coordinates medical, health care and personal services for physicians and patients who wish to access University Hospitals programs and services from outside the U.S., anywhere in the world
- Support groups: enable patients and families to share their concerns and experiences managing the transplant process
- Pastoral care: chaplains visit patients upon request; family clergy are also welcome to visit