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Researchers Hail ‘Split-Liver Transplant’ UW Researchers Hope To Save As Many As 26 Mores Lives Each Year

Fri., Oct. 10, 1997

Researchers at the University of Washington say they can use one liver to save the lives of two transplant patients.

By expanding the “split-liver transplant” program, researchers hope to save as many as 26 more lives each year.

The procedure allows one donated liver to be divided and used by two patients, usually an adult and a child, although it may also work for two small adults. Once transplanted, the split liver will grow to normal size in a patient’s body.

Better removal techniques that reduce damage to the organ and increase success rates for recipients made the program expansion possible. “This change will allow us to utilize every organ to the greatest extent possible and help more of the many patients in dire need of a liver,” said Dr. James Perkins, surgeon and director of transplantation services.

The UW conducted its first split-liver transplant in 1993, and has performed about five such procedures since then.

To reduce possible damage to the organ, UW surgeons now split the liver while it’s still in the donor’s body, rather than remove the entire organ before splitting.

The procedure is similar to that performed when part of a living donor’s liver is removed for direct transplantation, Perkins said.

To ensure that organs are in good condition, surgeons do not split livers from donors over 45, he said.

When splitting the liver, surgeons must tie off hundreds of small veins to stop bleeding. The inbody technique makes it easier to detect and control blood flow, Perkins said.

“With this process, the organ is removed in the best possible shape, helping to ensure the transplant will be successful,” he said.

Last month, about 8,700 people in the United States were on waiting lists for a liver transplant. In 1996, a total of 4,058 liver transplants were performed.

The number of people who need transplants grows about 20 percent to 40 percent each year, but the number of donors grows only 2 percent to 3 percent, Perkins said.

“About 15 percent of patients die while waiting for a liver transplant,” he said.

UW surgeons performed about 200 transplant procedures last year, including 67 liver transplants.

xxxx WAITING FOR A TRANSPLANT Last month, about 8,700 people in the United States were on waiting lists for a liver transplant. In 1996, a total of 4,058 liver transplants were performed. The number of people who need transplants grows about 20 percent to 40 percent each year, but the number of donors grows only 2 percent to 3 percent.



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