October 14, 2015/Digestive/Transplant

Program Update: Liver Transplantation at Cleveland Clinic Florida

Exponential growth, complex cases, shorter wait times


Recently doubling its surgical staff for liver transplants, Cleveland Clinic Florida’s Transplant Program has performed 30 liver transplants to date and is poised to continue accommodating rapid volume growth.


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The program, launched in July 2013 following the hiring of internationally renowned transplant surgeon Andreas Tzakis, MD, PhD, just added two new surgeons to its ranks:

Diego Reino, MD, joined Cleveland Clinic in July following a fellowship at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center training under distinguished liver transplant surgeon Ronald W. Busuttil, MD, PhD.

Gabriel Schnickel, MD, who also previously trained under Dr. Busuttil, joined our team in August from Children’s Hospital of Michigan and Henry Ford Medical Center.


They join a busy team that includes transplant surgeon Melissa Watson, MD, and transplant hepatologist John Rivas, MD.

Medical Director Bobby Zervos, MD, credits the program’s recent success to several factors: “We’re doing complicated cases that are being referred to us from all over the country. We can offer a shorter waiting time because of the region in which we’re located — making our program an attractive option for people who can relocate and get on the waiting list here.”


The program is equally active on the research front, participating in clinical trials of ELAD® (Vital Therapies, San Diego), an investigational extracorporeal, human cell-based liver support system designed to supplement hepatic function to improve survival rates among liver failure patients. The team enrolled one patient in a previous phase involving patients with alcohol-induced liver decompensation and is now participating in the next phases for steroid-refractory acute alcoholic hepatitis and fulminant liver failure.

By the end of 2015, the program also intends to be the only adult living/related donor transplant program for livers in Florida.

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