NSUH close to performing LI’s first liver transplants

Organ player: Manhasset's North Shore University Hospital is one regulatory step away from establishing Long Island's first liver-transplantation program.

Marking another first for Northwell Health, state health officials have greenlighted Long Island’s first liver-transplant program.

The New Hyde Park-based health system announced Tuesday that the New York State Department of Health has granted “contingent approval” to North Shore University Hospital’s request to establish an adult liver-transplant program.

Specifically, the Health Department’s Public Health and Health Planning Council has sanctioned the application of NSUH’s Adult Liver Transplant Service and forwarded its recommendations to state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker for final approval.

That approval – expected in short order – would establish Long Island’s first adult liver-transplant program and only the eighth in New York State. With more than 1,100 New Yorkers on liver-transplant waiting lists and deceased-donor livers in limited supply, according to Northwell Health, only seven statewide hospitals currently offer such procedures.

The majority are based in New York City, including New York Presbyterian Hospital, Mount Sinai Medical Center and New York University Langone Medical Center, all in Manhattan; the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx; and Brooklyn’s SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

Liver-transplant programs are also in effect at the Westchester Medical Center and Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital.

Bringing one to Long Island will greatly benefit the regional population, according to NSUH Surgical Vice Chairman Lewis Teperman, who will head up the new Adult Liver Transplant Service. Especially appreciative might be the “more than 100 patients to whom we currently provide pre- and post-liver transplant services,” Teperman said, “or who are recovering from end-stage liver disease.”

Lewis Teperman: Keeping it local.

“North Shore University Hospital has a service area of 5.3 million residents on Long Island and in Queens,” added Teperman, who is also Northwell Health’s director of organ transplantation. “But until now, patients with liver disease and their families have been plagued with a commute into Manhattan that is both burdensome and a true hardship.”

Doubly so when factoring in a total transplantation timeframe that can stretch as long as three years. Hence the establishment of the Adult Liver Transplant Service in Manhasset, expected to be operational by December in a new, state-of-the-art intensive care unit dedicated specifically to transplant patients.

The new service will complement NSUH’s Sandra Atlas Bass Center for Liver Diseases, which officially opened in 2016 and treated more than 4,300 patients in 2017, according to Northwell Health.

The NSUH Adult Liver Transplant Service – the fourth organ-transplantation service established by Northwell Health in the last 11 years – is expected to perform at least 20 liver transplants within its first two years of operation. Since NSUH applied to the state to establish a transplant program in March 2017, Northwell Health’s 50 full-time gastroenterologists/hepatologists have referred 35 patients for liver-transplant evaluations, the health system said.

Northwell Health officials are also addressing the issue of limited deceased-donor livers. The health system is working directly with organ-procurement organization LiveOnNY to raise awareness among physicians, healthcare staffers and community members about “the viability of living organ donation,” Northwell noted.

Developed in partnership with Brooklyn-based Northwell Health affiliate Maimonides Medical Center, the Adult Liver Transplant Service will improve medical outcomes for several reasons, starting with geography, according to program medical director Henry Bordenheimer.

“With a shorter distance to travel to get life-saving transplants, patients who were previously constrained by their incomes or faced other limitations due to their illness will be more likely to attend regular appointments,” Bordenheimer said Tuesday.