Carilion Clinic, a leading health care system in Virginia, has announced its intention to start an adult kidney transplant program at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. The program, which is pending state approval, would be the first of its kind in western Virginia and the eighth in the state.
According to Carilion Clinic, there are about 5,000 people in southwest Virginia with advanced kidney disease, more than any other region in the state. Kidney disease is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. and affects one in seven adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Kidney disease can cause severe damage to the kidneys and reduce their ability to filter waste and fluid from the blood. This can lead to the need for dialysis, a treatment that requires patients to visit a center or perform a procedure at home several times a week for several hours. Dialysis can significantly affect the quality of life and life expectancy of patients, as well as the cost of health care.
The alternative to dialysis is kidney transplantation, a surgical procedure that replaces a diseased kidney with a healthy one from a donor. Kidney transplantation can improve the survival and well-being of patients with kidney failure, as well as reduce the burden on the health care system.
However, access to kidney transplantation is limited for patients in western Virginia, who have to travel two hours or more to other transplant centers in the state or in neighboring North Carolina. This can pose challenges for patients who need frequent follow-up visits and tests before and after the surgery.
Carilion Clinic aims to address this gap by launching a kidney transplant program at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, which would use existing operating rooms and facilities. The program would be led by Dr. David Salzberg, a general surgeon and director of metabolic and bariatric surgery at the hospital. Dr. Salzberg is trained in abdominal organ transplant surgery and has been with Carilion Clinic for about 10 years.
“We’re committed to providing our neighbors and community with more access to advanced medical services,” said Nancy Howell Agee, CEO of Carilion Clinic. “The need is clear, and we’re fortunate to have the talented team required for this transplant program.”
Carilion Clinic expects the need for kidney transplantation to grow by more than 25% by 2025 and by 32% each year for the next 10 years in its service area. The program would also serve patients from neighboring regions and states, as well as rural and underserved populations.
The kidney transplant program is subject to the Certificate of Public Need (COPN) process, which is a state regulation that requires health care providers to obtain approval from the Virginia Department of Health before establishing or expanding certain health care services or facilities. Carilion Clinic plans to submit its COPN application in February and hopes to receive approval by June. The tentative start date for the program is October 2024.
“We’re excited to bring this life-saving service to our region and to our patients,” said Dr. Salzberg. “This new program will be a lifeline to those patients when it’s fully up and running.”