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Last Updated: Monday, 7 November 2005, 11:30 GMT
Go-ahead for live liver donations
Edinburgh Royal Infirmary
Edinburgh Royal Infirmary was given consent for the procedure
Scotland is to become the first part of the UK to allow living liver donations to take place between adults on the National Health Service.

Health Minister Andy Kerr confirmed that Edinburgh Royal Infirmary would perform the operations from next April.

About five procedures are expected to take place inthe first year, 10 in the second and 15 annually after that.

The liver is able to regenerate in the donor and recipient when part of the organ is removed.

Both organs then have the potential to grow to full size.

The treatment has already been used on adults in Japan, the US and some parts of Europe.

The surgery itself is quite daunting because operating on a living donor is so different to any other procedure which we do
John Forsyth
Surgeon

At the moment livers are only taken from donors who are classed as brain stem dead.

Mr Kerr said: "In Scotland, 13 patients have died in each of the last two years and many more have had to be removed from the liver transplant waiting list because they have become too unwell while waiting for a donor organ.

"Living liver donations will offer a lifeline to patients who would previously have only had the option of waiting on this list."

Risk figures

Live liver transplants involving children have already taken place in the UK. These do not carry as high a risk as the recipient needs a smaller part of the donor organ.

A small number of private operations have also taken place in Britain.

There were "significant" dangers for the donor and the recipient of the liver.

The risk of death in living liver donation is between half and one per cent, according to reports from other centres around the world. The risk of complications is about 20%.

Every potential donor will have to be fully assessed to ensure they are suitable and that they are not acting under any kind of coercion, whether emotional or financial
Maureen Cunningham
Transplant co-ordinator

These figures compare to a risk of death of one in 3,000 for living kidney donor transplantation and a complication rate of about one per cent.

To begin with, the procedure will be limited to people suffering from chronic hepatic (liver) failure. Those who suffer from acute liver failure have only a few days to live and experts say the short timescale may lead to errors in the assessment process during the early phase of the programme.

John Forsyth, consultant surgeon and clinical director at ERI transplant unit, said: "The surgery itself is quite daunting because operating on a living donor is so different to any other procedure which we do."

'Support and advice'

Maureen Cunningham, transplant co-ordinator and member of the Donor Advocacy Team, said: "Every potential donor will have to be fully assessed to ensure they are suitable and that they are not acting under any kind of coercion, whether emotional or financial.

"Once approved, a donor will need a lot of support and advice leading up to and following the transplant procedure.

"This aspect of care is new and daunting but we are excited that we are moving into this area of transplant surgery."

More than 500 liver transplant operations have been carried out at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary since 1992.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See how the new procedure will help patients



SEE ALSO:
Live liver transplant closer
23 Jul 04 |  Scotland
Call for organ transplant debate
11 Jul 03 |  Scotland


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