12 UW Medicine patients saved in 1st year of hep C transplant protocol

Specialists have performed heart and liver transplants on 13 patients in the first year of a new UW Medicine protocol, which uses organs from donors who had hepatitis C before they died.

Under the protocol, patients have the option of choosing hepatitis C-infected donor organs. These organs were traditionally discarded as donor options, but most cases of hepatitis C are curable, and choosing to accept donor organs infected with the disease can increase a patient's chances of receiving a transplant. Patients live longer, on average, when they agree to the option of a hepatitis C-infected organ, research shows.

Patients undergo a two-month antiviral medication regimen following the transplant. Nine of UW's organ recipients have completed or are currently taking the medication and three have not yet started. One patient died immediately after transplant for reasons unrelated to hepatitis C. 

UW Medicine's protocol hopes to expand to all donor organs when more data reveals long-term effects, said Ajit Limaye, MD, director of the health system's Solid Organ Transplant Infectious Disease Program.

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