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Prisma Health Kidney Transplant Program receives approval, with kidney transplants expected to begin this fall

Monday, October 4, 2021

GREENVILLE, S.C.—Prisma Health’s new kidney transplant program at Greenville Memorial Hospital has received approval to perform kidney transplants by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), which oversees organ procurement and allocation nationally. The Prisma Health Transplant Center, which is expected to see its first patients in early October, will be the only transplant center in the Upstate area of South Carolina and will bring leading-edge care to kidney disease patients who previously had to travel more than 100 miles for transplant-related procedures.

The center anticipates performing its first kidney transplants, including living-related donors and deceased donors, this fall. The center is led by nationally recognized transplant surgeon Todd Merchen, MD, and transplant nephrologist Keith Superdock, MD.

South Carolina has the second-highest wait list for kidney transplants in the nation per capita, according to UNOS, with more than 1,300 kidney patients in South Carolina currently on a waiting list to receive a life-saving kidney transplant.

Being unable to get care locally creates an extra strain on patients and families, especially since transplants can entail numerous evaluation visits and post-procedure checkups, as well as the complex surgery itself. Prisma Health will offer deceased-organ donation as well as living-organ donation, which allows relatives, loved ones, friends and even those wanting to remain anonymous to donate an organ. The kidney is the most commonly transplanted organ from a living donor, according to UNOS. 

“We are very excited to receive approval for the Prisma Health Kidney Transplant Program from the United Network for Organ Sharing,” said Merchen, the director of the new transplantation program. “It is both humbling and inspiring to have the opportunity to be part of building this program for our patients, community and state,” said Merchen, a multi-organ transplant surgeon with nearly 20 years of experience.

“Understanding the great need that exists for this critical resource, we are focusing all our energy on creating a caring, efficient and responsive environment for our patients to support them through their transplant experience. This is a great first step, and we are eager to get started. This will also move us forward toward our goal of providing comprehensive transplant care to the patients of South Carolina,” said Merchen.

Merchen is division chief of solid organ transplant surgery at Prisma Health and is an associate professor of surgery at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville.

Transplant nephrologist Keith Superdock said, “The UNOS approval attests to the quality and capability of Prisma Health Greenville Memorial Hospital, its ancillary services and the excellence of the transplant clinical team that we have assembled to care for patients suffering from advanced kidney disease. Greenville Memorial Hospital is now one of only 253 transplant centers nationwide and one of only two centers in all of South Carolina. By providing kidney transplant services to patients in the Upstate, we hope to improve transplant rates in our region and reduce health care disparities in the state. I am honored and privileged to be part of this exciting new program.”

Superdock heads Prisma Health’s division of solid organ transplant medicine as its division chief and is a professor at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville.

The new center’s physician leadership has more than 45 years of experience caring for hundreds of kidney transplant patients. A multidisciplinary team that includes a surgeon, nephrologist, nurse coordinator, social worker, dietician, pharmacist and financial counselor will assist patients through the transplant journey.

For patients with end-stage renal disease who qualify to receive a kidney transplant, this surgery is expected to improve quality of life and length of life as well.

Nationwide, more than 106,000 people are currently on the organ transplant list, with more than 90,000 waiting for kidney transplants, according to the most recent UNOS data from September 2021. 

But a local kidney transplantation program may also positively affect willingness of individuals to become donors, according to Donate Life SC, which manages South Carolina’s organ, eye and tissue donor registry.

"The need for kidneys in South Carolina is overwhelming compared to the limited number of organs typically available, which is devastating for patients and their families who may wait years, or, too often, have a loved one pass away before a match becomes available,” said its CEO Tracy Moore. “We hope that having an additional program in our state will not only better serve existing patients but help bring more awareness regarding donation, including living-donor options.”

The Prisma Health Kidney Transplant Program is now accepting referrals for transplant. For more information, visit PrismaHealth.org/OrganTransplant or call 864-455-1770.

For more information on becoming an organ donor, learning more about the donation process or about those whose lives have been saved through donation – or whose donations helped save those lives – visit Donate Life SC at DonateLifeSC.org or We Are Sharing Hope at SharingHopeSC.org. We Are Sharing Hope is South Carolina’s federally designated organ procurement organization.

To become an organ donor, register at DonateLifeSC.org, at your local South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles office, or in the iPhone Health app. 

About Prisma Health

Prisma Health is a not-for-profit health company and the largest healthcare system in South Carolina. With nearly 30,000 team members, 18 acute and specialty hospitals, 2,947 beds and more than 300 outpatient sites with nearly 2,000 physicians, Prisma Health serves more than 1.2 million unique patients annually in its 21-county market area that covers 50% of South Carolina. Prisma Health’s goal is to improve the health of all South Carolinians by enhancing clinical quality, the patient experience and access to affordable care, as well as conducting clinical research and training the next generation of medical professionals. Visit PrismaHealth.org for more information.

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