UMCG transplants ‘patched up’ liver

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A first for the University Medical Center Groningen: a patient received a donor liver which had originally been rejected. A special medical douche made the liver functional again. This was the first time this happened in the Netherlands.
By Thereza Langeler / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

‘An increasing amount of donors suffer from conditions such as diabetes and obesity, which means their organs are of poorer quality’, says liver transplant surgeon Robert Porte. ‘And yet we still have to use these organs, because there is a large shortage of donor organs.’

At the UMCG, they have found a solution for this: a perfusion machine. This can basically fix an organ that was previously in too poor a state. In 2013, they succeeded in transplanting a pair of patched up lungs.

This year, it was the liver’s turn. How does one fix a liver? In the perfusion machine, the surgeons douche it with a cold rinse that contains oxygen and nutrition.

Then, they gradually bring the liver back to body temperature. This restarts the metabolism and allows for the testing of vitality and functions.

Normal colour

On Wednesday, this test was passed with distinction. The donor liver regained its normal colour and acidity, produced bile, etc. In short: it worked. Its new owner is doing well, the hospital says.

‘This is fantastic’, Porte responds. In 2016, 159 liver transplants were performed in the Netherlands. There are more donors, but many donor livers are deemed to be unfit for transplant early on. ’Now, we can fix more donor liver and have them available for transplant.’

A first for the University Medical Center Groningen: a patient received a donor liver which was originally rejected. A special medical douche made the liver functional again.

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