Director of Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Surgery
Surgical Director - Liver Transplantation, Cedars-Sinai Comprehensive Transplant Center
Dr. Nissen is one of the leading experts in the surgical treatment of liver and pancreatic disease, in the United States. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics at the University of Minnesota and went on to attend the University of Minnesota School of Medicine where he graduated with Alpha Omega Alpha Honors. He completed his general surgery residency and research fellowship at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois. Dr. Nissen completed two additional fellowships, first in Surgical Critical Care at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center from 1997-1998 where he was named the Fellow of the Year, and then in Liver and Abdominal Organ Transplantation at UCLA Medical Center from 1999-2001 under the mentorship of Dr. Ronald Busuttil. In 2001, Dr. Nissen joined the Liver Transplant Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Dr. Nissen’s early work at Cedars included the co-development of a Living Donor Liver Transplant Program and the development of programs aimed at treating Pancreatic and Liver Cancers. Dr. Nissen has developed one of the most prolific and successful clinical practices in the US and has personally performed over 3000 complex liver and pancreatic surgeries. In 2012, he was named the Director of Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Additionally, in 2015 Dr. Nissen was named the Director of the Liver Transplant Program at Cedars. Under his leadership, the Liver Transplant Program volume at Cedars Sinai has doubled in size with a record number of annual liver transplants performed last year, and now demonstrates patient outcomes that are among the best in the country.
Dr. Nissen’s contributions have centered around the primary goal of finding innovative and durable solutions for complex medical problems related to liver and pancreatic disease. Inside the operating room, he has led the development of techniques to preserve organ function during tumor removal, to use minimally invasive tumor “ablation” techniques as an alternative to more radical and damaging approaches, to use microsurgical techniques to remove tumors that would otherwise be considered unresectable, and to optimize the utilization of so-called “marginal livers” during liver transplantation. This aggressive surgical approach has allowed the Cedars team to break new ground in Liver Transplantation, reaching patient survival rates of nearly 95% despite the challenges of organ shortage and life-threatening conditions.
Dr. Nissen was the Principal Investigator of a trial that demonstrated that HIV positive patients could safely undergo Liver and Kidney Transplant. He established numerous Multidisciplinary Treatment Teams to allow highly specialized and yet efficient treatment of complex disease such as Neuroendocrine Liver Tumors, Hepatocellular Cancer and Pancreatic Cancer. He has been a vocal advocate for challenging the long-held stereotypes about the use of Liver Transplantation as a treatment for alcohol-related liver disease and has led the Cedars Team as they redefine their own practice in this arena, balancing the goals of saving lives while optimizing the use of donor livers.
Dr. Nissen is an active researcher and is highly published. He has trained dozens of residents and fellows who have gone on to lead transplant programs around the US. His current research continues to focus on improving the utilization of Liver Transplantation as a treatment for a growing number of benign and malignant conditions, while also finding alternatives to Liver Transplantation when possible.
Dr. Nissen was born and raised on a farm in northern Minnesota and was the first and only member of his family to attend medical school. He is married to Dr. Kathy Magliato, one of the few female cardiothoracic surgeons in the US and a nationally recognized expert in heart disease in women.