New Era for Liver Transplant Patients; Breakthrough Surgery Will Help Save Lives

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Byline: Tom Mullen

ANEW era in organ transplantation was heralded last night allowing adult patients to receive liver transplants from a living donor for the first time in the region.

In a meeting attended by more than 100 people, surgeons in Tyneside announced they are preparing to perform their first adult-to-adult liver transplant within weeks on the NHS.

Live transplant operations are an established procedure for kidneys as donors can survive with only one, but until now there has never been a live liver transplant done by surgeons in a North East hospital.

The operation is a procedure lasting about three hours and open to any two people with the same blood group and similar size of liver.

It involves two pairs of surgeons working simultaneously in separate theatres. In the procedure, part of the liver of a healthy donor is removed and transplanted into a patient with liver failure. The remaining liver in the donor re-grows within weeks to almost its normal size, while the piece of donated liver also grows to function normally.

John Bedlington, chairman of the group LIVERNORTH, said people were already waiting to have a transplant.

He said: "This is a major development for patients with liver disease in the North East and will save many, many lives. Already people are on a waiting list to get a live liver transplant and I expect the procedure to take place within weeks. This is an extremely exciting development.

"There is no doubt this is the right time to start doing the procedure. We have the techniques, the skills and a lot of research has been done which shows the liver grows once transplanted and both the patient and donor does well after surgery."

Living donor liver transplantation has been carried out in other countries for more than 15 years and in the UK the first transplant was carried out at St James' Hospital in Leeds in 2007. …