Health Care

Spectrum Health performs first lung transplant in West Michigan

February 18, 2013
| By Pete Daly |
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Spectrum Health performs first lung transplant in West Michigan
Cardiothoracic surgeon Asghar Khaghani, MD, right, prepares a donor lung during Spectrum Health's first lung transplant and is assisted by cardiothoracic surgeon Robert Hooker, MD, center. Photo by Mark Gray, Spectrum Health

Spectrum Health has announced that surgeons have performed the first lung transplant in West Michigan on Joseph Steponski, 59, at the Spectrum Health Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center.

Steponski, who is from Wyoming, is in good condition.

Steponski received a single, right-lung transplant. A team headed by cardiothoracic surgeon Asghar Khaghani, MD, performed the transplant on Feb. 4. He was assisted by cardiothoracic surgeon Robert Hooker, MD.

“Our patient’s prognosis for a strong recovery and continued success appear good at this time,” said Reda Girgis, MD, medical director of the lung transplant program.

A medical team led by Girgis will monitor Steponski’s progress after he leaves the hospital and watch for organ rejection issues.

“This is a milestone for us and for West Michigan,” said Matt Van Vranken, executive vice president, Spectrum Health Delivery System. “This means another group of West Michigan patients can receive this highly specialized care in their community, reducing travel, costs and stress to them and their families.”

Steponski suffered from Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, a disease of unknown cause that leads to progressive scarring of the lungs. Before the transplant, his lung function had fallen to less than half of normal and he had severe shortness of breath with minimal physical activity, requiring continuous supplemental oxygen.

“Everyone involved with Mr. Steponski’s care, from the team managing his lung disease, to the teams performing his surgery and postoperative care, has done a tremendous job,” said Khaghani. “Mr. Steponski’s recovery so far has been remarkable.”

The lung transplant team is part of the Richard DeVos Heart & Lung Transplant Program. Other physicians involved with the transplant procedure included cardiothoracic surgeons Edward Murphy, MD, and Tomasz Timek, MD, along with anesthesiologists Penny Wilton, MD, Matthew Parlmer, DO, and William Telford, DO.

Spectrum Health has one of three adult heart and lung transplant programs in Michigan and received state approval in February 2010. Girgis came to Spectrum Health last July to head the lung transplant program, which received approval from the United Network for Organ Sharing to begin listing patients for lung transplantation in December 2012.

Bruce Rossman, a spokesperson for Spectrum Health, said an estimate of the total cost of the operation on Feb. 4 hasn’t been done yet.

Milliman, an actuarial research firm, reported that in 2011 the average total billed charges for a single lung transplant in the U.S. were $561,200.

Rossman said the first 10 lung transplants at Spectrum Health will be free, because Spectrum has to complete 10 and submit the outcomes to the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to become eligible for reimbursement.

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