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Father-Daughter Liver Transplant
BACKGROUND: In a liver transplant, a diseased liver is completely replaced with a healthy liver or a portion of a healthy one. Once transplanted, a piece of a liver can grow into a normal sized organ. The most common medical condition that leads to a liver transplant is cirrhosis -- the scarring and death of liver cells -- caused by hepatitis C. Other conditions that may lead to a liver transplant include bile duct diseases, inherited conditions like Wilson disease, liver cancer and alcoholism.
Nationally, more than 17,500 patients are on the waiting list for a new liver, according to the University of California. More than 1,700 patients die each year waiting for a liver. The number of patients undergoing "living donor liver transplants" is on the rise. While the main benefit of this type of transplant is organ availability, livers from living donors are also less likely to be rejected than cadaver organs.
While more than half of kidney transplants are done with a living donor, only 3 percent of liver transplants are performed this way. In standard living donor liver transplants, surgeons make a 20 to 25 centimeter incision to retrieve the organ from the donor. Recovery typically takes four to six weeks, and the donor stays in the hospital from four to seven days. The burden of surgery is doubled for families when a parent donates to his or her child, which is often the case with pediatric liver donations. "It does put a large burden on the family," Benjamin Samstein, M.D., surgical director of the Living Donor Liver Transplant Program at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia, told Ivanhoe. "The non-donor parent has to really often take care of two patients after surgery. In addition, the parent who is donating feels conflicted because they want to both recover from surgery as well as take care of their child."
Dr. Samstein is pioneering a procedure that is easier on the donor patient in order to boost the number of living organ donors. He performs the procedure laparascopically at the only medical center in the United States that offers the less invasive surgery. "We make a small incision -- approximately 3 inches in size -- in the lower aspect of the abdomen, and we basically place a bag inside, put the liver piece in the bag, pull the bag out … and then quickly bring the liver over to the baby," Dr. Samstein explained. "With this operation, what we’re seeing is recovery in about 10 days and return to work in two to three weeks, with really much less pain and much less fatigue." Dr. Samstein says the technique lowers the risk of complications like hernia, chronic pain and energy loss.