Tue, Nov 23, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Operation offers hope to others

RISKY PROCEDURE A young boy is recovering well after undergoing the nation's first live liver transplant to use a new, untested method of reconstructing a vein

By Wang Hsiao-wen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Yung Jun-jie, the first person in the country to have a successful live liver transplant using a new method of vein reconstruction, stands before a birthday cake with a single candle yesterday, a symbol of his new chance at life. He underwent the revolutionary new procedure at the Veterans General Hospital.

PHOTO: CNA

An eleven-year-old boy named Yung Jun-jie (楊竣傑), is the first person in the country to have a successful live liver transplant aided by a breakthrough method of vein reconstruction.

In a marathon 20-hour operation last month, surgeons at the Taipei Veterans General Hospital transplanted 35 percent of the liver of Yung's father to the ailing boy.

The boy is now recovering from Budd-Chiari Syndrome, a liver disease that threatened his life and is caused by a blocked vein.

"To help patients with Budd-Chiari syndrome, we have conducted six operations in which we took the liver from the deceased. But Yung is the very first case of live liver transplant," said the child's doctor, Liu Jun-shu (劉君恕).

According to the team of surgeons that conducted the operation, the success is encouraging for other patients stricken by venous illness.

"In patients with Budd-Chiari syndrome, the blood cannot flow back to the heart smoothly through the heptic vein," Liu said. "The disease could lead to hepatomegaly [enlarged liver] and liver failure."

Although Taiwan has seen numerous successful cases of live liver transplants before, Yung's case demonstrated surgical finesse in reconstructing a new vein to replace the child's blocked vein.

In live liver transplants, surgeons traditionally reconstruct veins with artificial material.

In Yung's case, however, an artificial vein would have been vulnerable to further infection.

Also, it would not be able to grow as the child ages.

For those reasons, experts decided to rebuild a 12cm-long inferior vein from kidney to heart with Yung's jugular vein.

The complex procedure poses ethical as well as medical challenges. Live liver transplants carry significant risks for both the donor and recipient, said Lung Jie-quan (龍藉泉), a surgeon and the secretary general of the hospital's organ transplant committee.

"About one in 200 patients die within a year after the operation," Lung explained.

The vein reconstruction further increases the surgical risks.

"Since this is the very first case of a live liver transplant with vein reconstruction, we don't know the survival rate of this complex surgery," Liu said.

At the prognosis before the surgery, Yung's parents were informed that their boy could die on the operating table.

But the parents decided to go through with surgery anyway.

"We want to seize every chance to cure him," Yung's father said.

With the organ shortage growing, patients like Yung do not have many alternatives.

While there are some 5,600 patients waiting for organs, only 1,300 donors are available, according to the latest statistics from the non-official Organ Procurement Association.

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