Trans­plant in­no­va­tion a life­saver

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHENG CAIXIONG in Guangzhou zheng­caix­iong@chi­

A cir­rho­sis pa­tient in Guangzhou has been dis­charged from the hos­pi­tal af­ter re­ceiv­ing a new liver us­ing a groundbreaking tech­nique that is ex­pected to keep healthy or­gans from go­ing to waste.

The man, identified only as Wang, 51, said on Thurs­day that he felt well, and ex­pressed his grat­i­tude to the med­i­cal staff at the First Af­fil­i­ated Hos­pi­tal of Sun Yat-sen Univer­sity.

The op­er­a­tion on July 23 is the first time in China a trans­planted or­gan was kept alive us­ing new tech­nol­ogy that pro­vides un­in­ter­rupted blood flow, ac­cord­ing to the hos­pi­tal.

Af­ter col­lec­tion from the donor, the liver was put into a ma­chine de­vel­oped by Chinese doc­tors and sci­en­tists that pumped body-tem­per­a­ture blood into the he­patic artery, rep- li­cat­ing the ef­fect of be­ing in a body, keep­ing the or­gan fresh.

Or­gans usu­ally are stored on ice, but af­ter 30 min­utes with­out the flow of blood, they be­gin to die. This new tech­nique means an or­gan can be stored for much longer — in the case of liv­ers, four hours.

“The tech­nol­ogy is a break­through,” said He Xiaoshun, vice-pres­i­dent of the hos­pi­tal and the top ex­pert in its or­gan trans­plant cen­ter. The suc­cess of Wang’s surgery “shows the tech­nol­ogy can also be used in other trans­plant oper­a­tions, in­clud­ing hearts, kid­neys and lungs, as liver trans­plants are the most dif­fi­cult”.

The method can also “help re­duce com­pli­ca­tions and shorten the pe­riod of re­cov­ery com­pared with tra­di­tional trans­plants”, he said, adding that Wang was trans­ferred to an or­di­nary ward from the in­ten­sive care unit only 19 hours af­ter surgery.

More than 4,080 trans­plan­ta­tion surg­eries were car­ried out in China last year. How­ever, many healthy or­gans are wasted due to con­straints in stor­age and trans­porta­tion, ex­perts said.

He’s team be­gan ex­per­i­ment­ing with ways to pro­vide un­in­ter­rupted blood flow to or­gans seven years ago.

Af­ter ob­serv­ing Wang’s re­cov­ery, the hos­pi­tal car­ried out the same op­er­a­tion on a 50-year-old man on Aug 8. That pa­tient is now recovering, He said, adding that the third such trans­plant will take place on Fri­day.

While the same type of tech­nol­ogy is be­ing used and tested in a few other coun­tries, ma­chines that can keep liv­ers alive are on the cut­ting edge.

Wang Xue­hao, an academician at the Chinese Academy of En­gi­neer­ing, said the blood flow ma­chine is a dis­rup­tive in­no­va­tion that show­cases the na­tion’s great con­tri­bu­tion to or­gan trans­plan­ta­tion.

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