Norfolk, VA – July 5, 2004 – Sentara Norfolk General Hospital placed its lung transplant program on inactive status today, citing low procedure volumes over several years, and a shortage of donated organs. Seven local patients on the waiting list have been assisted in joining other programs in Virginia.
“Lungs are one of the most difficult organs to maintain for transplant,” says Betty Crandall, R.N., Director of Cardiovascular Transplant Services at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. “Their fragile tissues are easily damaged by trauma or infection. Couple that with a limited number of registered organ donors, and it can be difficult to keep a lung transplant program active.”
Sentara Norfolk General Hospital operates a robust transplant program for hearts and kidneys, and is pursuing state approval for pancreas transplants. But, there has been only one lung transplant performed in each of the last three years, due largely to organ availability.
Further complicating the issue for patients is Medicare. Most lung transplant candidates are on Medicare disability, and Medicare requires a volume of ten procedures a year, with satisfactory survival rates, for a program to qualify for reimbursement.
“Recipients in our lung program have excellent survival rates,” says Crandall. ”But we had to balance our desire to continue the program, with the reality of our low procedural volumes.”
While local patients have transitioned to either Inova Fairfax Hospital or University of Virginia Hospital for their lung transplants, Sentara Norfolk General Hospital will continue to provide comprehensive follow-up care at its post-transplant clinic.