UAMS Liver Transplant Recipients Celebrate First Anniversary of State’s Only Liver Transplant Program

By todd

LITTLE ROCK – The liver transplant program at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) today celebrated the first anniversary of the state’s first liver transplant with many of the program’s 28 transplant recipients and their families.


On May 14, 2005, a month after the program was certified, a UAMS surgery team led by Youmin Wu, M.D., performed the first liver transplant in Arkansas. By this May 14, 28 successful transplants were completed.


“Having a liver transplant program at UAMS met an important regional need as it allowed Arkansans to receive this lifesaving treatment close to home,” said UAMS Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson, M.D. “For UAMS, it has delivered on our missions of patient care, education, research and community outreach. On behalf of UAMS, I congratulate Dr. Wu and the liver transplant team on a successful first year.”


An afternoon reception honoring the program and the liver transplant recipients was held in the Fred W. Smith Conference Center of the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute on the UAMS campus.


“We are happy the UAMS liver transplant program has been able to help so many in its first year,” said Wu, director of the UAMS Multi-Organ Transplant Program and professor of surgery in the UAMS College of Medicine. “There is significant potential for growth and I appreciate the commitment and foresight shown by UAMS in starting this program.”


The state’s first liver transplant recipient, Greg Gilliland of Hot Springs, spoke about the program during the reception. “The liver transplant program at UAMS gave me hope after I was diagnosed with end stage liver disease and told I had only a short time to live,” he said.


“My family and I are glad this service is available in Arkansas to help others just like it did me.”     


In the year since the first transplant surgery at UAMS, the surgery survival rate is 100 percent. The average surgical time is about four hours, while the average length of hospital stay for recipients is six days.


The average age of liver transplant recipients is 48. As of Friday, there were 11 patients on the UAMS liver transplant waiting list.


Wu uses a special liver transplant technique he developed, called cavaplasty. This technique is used in several parts of the United States, as well as in Asia, and helps reduce blood loss during the procedure and allows a faster operating time.


Wu, a native of China, came to UAMS in 2004 from the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics, where he was a professor of surgery and director of the Liver Transplant Program. He initiated the liver transplant program in Iowa and also helped start liver transplantation in China.


Wu has performed about 800 transplants throughout his career and has held several world records in liver transplants, such as performing a transplant with the oldest donor and the longest survival; the oldest recipient and longest survival; and performed a liver transplant on one of the world’s youngest recipients – a 19-day-old baby.


The liver transplant program will get a boost this summer with the arrival of another transplant surgeon. Frederick Bentley, M.D., who specializes in liver, kidney and kidney-pancreas transplantation, will join the UAMS faculty as vice chairman for clinical affairs of the Department of Surgery in the UAMS College of Medicine.


Bentley developed the solid organ transplant program at the University of Louisville, where he joined the faculty in 1987. Since 1993, he has been a professor of surgery at the University of Louisville and medical director of the Jewish Hospital Transplant Program in Louisville. 


UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, five centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has about 2,320 students and 690 medical residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 9,300 employees, including nearly 1,000 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital and the VA Medical Center. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $4.5 billion a year. For more information, visit