UC Health’s transplant team is now able to surgically remove part of the liver of a living organ donor and transplant it into a patient in need of a new liver. The first living donor liver transplant surgery at UC Medical Center is scheduled for early August.
When a patient receives a living donor liver transplant, his or her entire liver is removed and replaced with a portion of the donor’s healthy liver. The human liver is able to regenerate, or to replace lost liver tissue with growth from the remaining healthy tissue.
“This gives us an additional avenue to address the scarce resource of donated livers. Our job is to provide access to our patients and save their lives, and opening up a new avenue through living liver donation helps expand access,” said Shimul A. Shah, MD, section chief of solid organ transplantation for UC Health, and James and Catherine Orr Endowed Chair in Liver Transplantation and professor of surgery at the UC College of Medicine.
In 2019, 524 living liver donor transplants were performed across the nation, accounting for about 6% of the total 8,896 liver transplants. This highly-specialized surgery is performed at 61 transplant centers in the U.S., according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.
UC Health’s University of Cincinnati Medical Center is home to Greater Cincinnati’s only comprehensive organ transplant program for adults. The program provides heart, kidney, liver and pancreas transplants and is considered a national leader in transplantation surgery and research. UC Medical Center last performed a living donor liver transplant in 2001.
In 2019, UC Health’s transplant program marked its eighth consecutive year of growth, with 133 liver transplants and 178 kidney transplants, including 59 from living kidney donors. 2019 was also a groundbreaking year for clinical research, with the first liver transplant in the U.S. performed using a donor organ preserved through mobile cold perfusion.
“Our entire transplant team is dedicated to helping save lives each and every day. Thanks to the strength of our team and the expertise of our surgeons, we are proud to be able to take on the responsibility of allowing a healthy person to donate part of their liver and provide more hope to patients who need it most,” Shah said.
In a living liver donor transplant surgery, the donor and the recipient are placed in side-by-side operating rooms. A surgeon removes a part of the donor’s liver, typically the right lobe but sometimes the left lobe. This donated segment of the liver is then placed in the recipient in the next operating room similar to typical liver transplant procedures.
The remaining part of the donor’s liver is sufficient to maintain normal body functions. The recipient also receives a large enough segment of the donor liver to maintain body functions.
During approximately the next two months, the remaining and transplanted parts of the donor liver grow to normal size, providing normal long-term liver function for the donor and the recipient.
Shah and several other UC Health transplant surgeons have performed living donor liver transplants and liver resection surgeries, which are similar in nature. Transplant surgeons at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center will also assist in the surgeries through an existing partnership between Greater Cincinnati’s only adult and pediatric transplant programs.
Patients and potential donors who would like to know more about living liver donation at UC Health can call 513-475-8400.