Last year marked a significant milestone in the field of liver transplantation, as the number of successful transplants reached a record high for the ninth consecutive year. Over 9,200 people in the United States received liver transplants, with the majority coming from deceased donors, but several hundred also receiving organs from living donors.
Advancements in medical technology have played a crucial role in this progress. Traditionally, livers that were not considered suitable for transplantation were kept on ice for up to nine hours. However, recent developments have revolutionized the process. Dr. Daniel Borja, a transplant surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, explains that organs are now connected to special devices that infuse oxygen, blood, and fluids into them.
There are two types of perfusion used to maintain the viability of livers: cold perfusion and warm perfusion. Cold perfusion involves cooling the organ to temperatures between 32 and 39 degrees Fahrenheit, which slows metabolism, reduces oxygen demand, and extends preservation up to 24 hours. On the other hand, warm perfusion maintains the liver temperature at 98.6 degrees, mimicking the normal body function and allowing for better assessment during transportation.
Thanks to these advancements, livers that were previously considered unsuitable for transplantation are now being successfully used. Dr. Borja emphasizes that patients who receive these once hesitant organs have had positive outcomes after transplantation.
However, despite the increasing number of liver transplants, the demand continues to outpace supply. Currently, approximately 10,000 individuals in the United States are on the waiting list for liver transplantation.
The use of cold and warm perfusions is not limited to livers. Transplant teams are also beginning to utilize these methods for lung, heart, and kidney transplantations.
Overall, innovative technology has significantly extended the viability of organs for transplantation, leading to more successful surgeries and improved outcomes for patients in need.
– Dr. Daniel Borja, transplant surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.