UF Health Shands lung transplant program best in Florida, nationally ranked

The UF Health lung transplant program outcomes establish it as best in Florida, top five across the country, according to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, SRTR.Dr. Rackauskas operating

Per the January 2023 data, patients who are admitted to UF Health can expect excellence in key transplant metrics, like survival on the organ waitlist and one-year survival rates post-transplant.

“These numbers represent people who have entrusted their care to us and we have been able to reward that trust,” said Mindaugas Rackauskas, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the division of thoracic surgery and surgical director of the lung transplant program. “Our dedicated team works with each of our patients, tailoring their care to optimize their outcome.”

In addition to more than 20 years’ experience in advanced lung transplantation techniques, the lung transplant team’s repertoire includes a robust COVID-related lung transplantation protocol and ECMO specialization, ensuring the bridge to transplant for each patient is seamless.

“Our interdisciplinary team incorporates key research initiatives to improve our surgical outcomes and the quality of care we strive to provide,” Rackauskas said. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, the development of fresh protocols and surgical approaches helped us optimize the care of patients with COVID acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). This has positioned us as a leader in COVID-related lung transplants, but it has also created a path for us to continue to take on patients with complex, acute cases.”

Since 1994, UF Health’s lung transplant program has conducted more than 1,000 lung transplants, most recently bringing its total to 1,119 transplants as of 2022. In total, there have been 1,060 adult transplants and 59 pediatric transplants.

In addition to the center’s COVID expertise, the UF Health lung transplant program was the site of the first adult, pediatric and heart-lung transplants in Florida. The program also performed the first re-transplant (a second lung transplant in the same patient) in the state and the first transplant for ventilator-dependent patients.

“Behind each of these successful transplants and long-term outcomes is the work of many,” Rackauskas said. “My team has put in countless hours to save lives, and we would not be where we are without the tireless dedication and expertise of all the pulmonologists, critical care specialists, anesthesiologists, nurses and staff.”

Now, Rackauskas’ focus is on expanding the program and his team.

“When a family entrusts their loved on into our care, it is a profound feeling. My hope is that we can grow our program even more, so we can support a higher volume of patients than we already do,” he said.