Living adult liver transplants could save another adult’s life

For the first time in Houston, surgeons at The Methodist Hospital removed a significant portion of a living adult’s liver and transplanted it into another adult, his close friend. Surgeons have taken portions of livers from adults and transplanted them into children for the past several years. But taking a portion from an adult to give to another adult is riskier to the donor because more of the liver must be removed, said Dr. Phillip Seu, surgeon at the Methodist/Baylor Multi-Organ Transplant Center. In this case, the patient’s liver disease would ultimately be fatal and she had an ideal donor, said Seu, an associate professor at Baylor College of Medicine. There are far more people waiting for organs than there are organs available. Nationwide, there are more than 12,000 people waiting for liver transplantation and there are about 4,000 liver transplants performed annually. The patient’s longtime friend, a 26-year-old law student in Brazil, agreed to be her hero. “His willingness to undergo the procedure for a friend is admirable,” Seu said. At a time when there are not enough organs for the thousands waiting, not many people are offering to step up like he did.” This patient, 31, suffers from an uncommon liver disease, familial amyloid polyneuropathy, which is a disease in which her liver inappropriately deposits abnormal proteins into her nervous system. The disease is fatal without a transplant, and her mother died of the disease 16 years ago. On June 30, Seu and Dr. John Goss, also a Methodist transplant surgeon, removed a portion of the male patients’s liver and transplanted into the other patient. The liver is the only organ that regenerates and will be completely restored to normal size in both patients in six months. The two surgeries took about eight hours and both patients are in good condition. The donor was discharged from the hospital four days after the procedure and will resume his normal activities after he recovers. The transplant has cured the recipient of her disease. To be considered as a living donor, a donor has to be in good health, have a compatible blood type and the size of the liver must be adequate. Seu said a living donor and recipient are screened carefully to be sure that the donor is doing it for the right reason. Seu said living donor transplants are one way to help alleviate the organ shortage and are life saving procedures that hopefully more centers will be able to offer their patients.

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