In early 2010, two teams of surgeons led by McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine
faculty member Abhinav Humar, MD (pictured), UPMC transplant chief and professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and Michael de Vera, MD, co-director of liver transplantation at UPMC, performed a living-donor liver transplant. The need for this surgery began less than a year ago when patient 31-year-old Christina Mazza learned that she had hereditary amyloidosis, a disease causing a build-up of proteins in her organs. After learning that a liver transplant was the best option to save her life, her sister Lisa Mazza volunteered to donate a portion of her own liver to Christina.
January’s surgery saved Christina’s life. Dr. Humar led the team who removed approximately half of Lisa’s liver. Then, a team of surgeons led by Dr. de Vera transplanted that portion into Christina.
Today, close to 15,000 people are listed for a liver transplant in the United States. Each year about 9,000 new cases are added to this list, but only 5,000 livers from deceased donors are available for liver transplantation. About 1,400 people die each year waiting for a new liver.
In the last 10 years or so, living-donor liver transplantation has been developed to help overcome the organ donor shortage and save lives. This procedure involves removing a portion of a healthy living donor’s liver to help someone already on the waiting list for a liver. At first, people who received living-donor livers were almost always children; that was because children don't need as large a liver as adults, and it allowed the surgeons to use the smaller (left) part of the donor's liver. But the increasing number of deaths each year in adults on the liver transplant list, combined with the growing shortage of deceased donors, has led to the use of this surgery in adults as well.
There are two big advantages to living-donor transplantation:
- Once a living donor has been found, the operation can be scheduled at the donor’s and recipient’s convenience.
- The recipient can receive the transplant before his or her liver disease has progressed to a severe stage. Once the disease progresses to the severe stage, a liver transplanted from a deceased donor can lead to a poor outcome.
For the donor, there is the benefit of knowing that he or she has contributed to another person’s life in a very meaningful way.
Today, both Christina and Lisa are recovering and their livers will regenerate to their normal size in about 6 to 8 weeks.
Illustration: McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
UPMC Media Relations (02/14/10)
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review w/video (02/14/10)
UPMC: Living-Donor Liver Transplantation
Bio: Dr. Abhinav Humar