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Intestine transplant benefits Michigan woman with Crohn’s disease

Two years ago, Darlene Scully of Taylor, Mich., was struggling to manage her Crohn’s disease. She had undergone several surgeries to remove parts of her small bowel. Unable to digest a normal diet, she relied on a nightly infusion of total parental nutrition (TPN) to provide her calories and nutrients. She also received daily saline IVs to balance her hydration and electrolyte levels. 

“I was losing a lot of weight, and I was scared,” recalls Scully. “But then doctors gave me hope.”

That hope came in the form of an intestine transplant, which now is an approved treatmentfor people with inflammatory bowel diseases, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. An intestine transplant involves surgically removing the diseased intestine and replacing it with intestine from a compatible deceased donor.

Scully underwent a transplant in March 2013. While she admits her recovery was slow, she says she hasn’t looked back.

“My old days are gone, and my new life is beginning,” says Scully, whose new life includes eating the old-fashioned way – with a fork and a spoon.   

Established in 2010, the Henry Ford Small Bowel and Multivisceral Transplant Programat Henry Ford Hospital is the first and only intestine transplant program in Michigan. Henry Ford surgeons perform intestine-only transplants, liver-intestine transplants, and transplants of the combined intestines, stomach, pancreas, and liver. Surgeries including multiple organs are possible because of the broader expertise of the Henry Ford Transplant Institute – one of the premier transplant programs in the United States.

“Over the last decade, advancements in surgical techniques and antirejection medications have allowed us to perform transplants for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis,” says Marwan Kazimi, M.D., surgical director of Small Bowel and Multivisceral Transplant. “People with these conditions who choose intestine transplant generally live longer and healthier lives.”

Unlike TPN, which has a 60 percent survival rate after five years, intestine transplant increases thesurvival rate to 80 percent after five years,according to the Intestinal Transplant Registry.  Furthermore, the majority of transplant patients no longer require TPN, thus eliminating related complications.

“Our goal is to provide highly coordinated care before, during, and following transplant, so our patients understand what’s happening every step of the way,” says Dr. Kazimi. A transplant nurse provides educational materials and support to patients and families, coordinates all testing and office appointments, and serves as the patient's liaison throughout the process.

“My transplant coordinator Nemie is my guardian angel,” says Scully. “She guided me through the process and helped me stay focused. She was with me all the time.”

For more information on intestinetransplants for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, go to www.henryford.com/transplant.