University of Colorado Hospital Transplant Center Passes Two Milestones

Center has performed 1,000 Living-Donor Kidney Transplants and 500 Heart Transplants
April 8, 2016

AURORA, Colo. — The University of Colorado Hospital (UCH) Transplant Center is celebrating two incredible milestones – it has now performed more than 500 heart transplants and 1,000 living-donor kidney transplants, far more than any other hospital in the region.

“The success of our transplant center can be attributed to our dedicated team of nurses, staff and providers as well as our partners, Donor Alliance and generous organ donors,” said UCH President and CEO Will Cook.  “The expert faculty members at the CU School of Medicine set us apart as the only academic medical center in the region, enabling us to offer the latest research and treatments including transplants, ensuring our patients receive the very best care.”

The transplant center performed their first living-donor kidney transplant in 1962, and these surgeries gained importance as waiting lists grew longer. UCH surgeons pioneered a laparoscopic surgery for kidney donors in 1999, which greatly increased the willingness for people to be live donors.

“This less-invasive technique made the hospital stay and recovery times much quicker, and long-term symptoms from the surgery were essentially eliminated,” said Dr. Thomas Bak, UCH transplant surgeon and University of Colorado School of Medicine associate professor. “Waiting times for a donated kidney from a deceased donor can be four to five years.  Living donation and paired exchange programs are the best ways to eliminate the years of dialysis suffered by kidney patients while they wait.”  Paired exchange allows willing donors who can’t directly donate to their intended recipient to be matched with other pairs in the same situation, thus allowing these transplants to proceed.

University of Colorado Hospital performed their 500th heart transplant four months ago, and the hospital remains the only one in the state and region with the expertise to perform heart transplants. One-year and three-year survival rates for patients at UCH exceed national averages.

“These milestones are important because they represent experience and knowledge,” said Dr. Joseph Cleveland Jr., UCH cardiac transplant surgeon and CU School of Medicine professor. “Centers that perform the highest numbers of complex surgeries like these are able to provide the very best outcomes for patients.”
UCH Transplant Milestones
Jennifer Radcliffe, 45, received her second heart transplant at UCH in 2013.  Her first transplant was performed in California when she was 18 years old. “These heart transplants saved my life, and every day I’m thankful for the gift my donors gave me. These days, recovery is far less restrictive, which has allowed me to have more peace of mind and energy to get back to a normal life,” said Radcliffe.  “I’ve been able to travel and be physically active and most importantly, I’ve been given time with my family and friends.”

“The goal would be to heal the patient’s own heart so that they would not need a transplant or artificial heart pump,” said Dr. Amrut Ambardekar, medical director of heart transplantation at UCH and CU School of Medicine assistant professor.  “Research here continues to explore treatment options that could reduce the need for the transplant in the future. We have a long history of working at the forefront of medical advances in heart failure. For example, the use of beta-blockers, a life-saving medical treatment for heart failure, was developed in part by researchers here at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.”

Investigators at UCH and the CU School of Medicine are also researching new treatments for heart failure. With continued advances in medical therapies, some transplant patients are living for more than 25 years after receiving a new heart.

Nationally, the heart transplant wait list includes approximately 4,200 people. In Colorado, 49 people are waiting for a heart, while nearly 2,700 Coloradans are on a wait list for a kidney, liver, lung, pancreas, intestine or other organ donation.

Say yes to being a donor – to register to be an organ, eye and tissue donor after death, say yes at your local driver’s license office or online anytime at For more information about becoming a living donor, visit

About University of Colorado Hospital

University of Colorado Hospital is the Rocky Mountain region’s leading academic medical center.  UCH is best known as an innovator in patient care and often as one of the first hospitals to bring new medicine to the patients’ bedside.  University HealthSystem Consortium named UCH the #1 Academic Medical Center in quality in the nation in both 2011 and 2012, and U.S. News & World Report named University of Colorado Hospital the best hospital in Colorado in 2012, 2013 and 2014.  UCH is one of five Colorado hospitals that make up UCHealth.  The hospital’s physicians are affiliated with the University of Colorado School of Medicine, part of the University of Colorado system.  Based on the expansive Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, CO, the hospital is where patient care, research and education converge to establish the future of health care delivery.