CAN I HAVE YOUR LIVER, PLEASE?

Our liver is like a parent. It is always there. Helping us out of potentially life-threatening situations without complain, time and again. We never stop to think of all the help we get from it, till one day it fails and you are left with no recourse.



By Blessing Johnson

Published: Thu 22 Jan 2004, 2:41 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 12:43 AM

Our liver is a complex organ which controls most important functions in our body, without which we just cannot live. It performs over a hundred functions, right from metabolizing alcohol and chemicals, neutralizing and destroying poisonous substances to regulating body cholesterol. It's easy to see why a person is seriously affected when these body functions are erratic or are shut down by liver disease.

The disease itself does not discriminate against age, sex, nationality or economic circumstances and is widely prevalent. Almost one in ten persons around the world is diagnosed with liver disease, which has the dubious distinction of being the fourth leading cause of death by disease.

While there are over a hundred known liver diseases, chronic liver disease patients have almost no hope of survival, unless a liver transplantation is performed. This operation is performed where the diseased liver is replaced by a healthy donated liver sourced from cadavers, or brain-dead persons. While this looks wonderful on paper, it has to be noted that more than 75 per cent of patients die before a suitable cadaveric liver is found. There is a serious shortage of donor livers and this shortage is pushing the cost prohibitively high.

Thus, it was but natural that medical science advanced to a point where it is now possible for a Living Donor Liver Transplant (LDLP). This delicate operation gives a new lease of life to patients with end-stage liver disease and is being increasingly availed of all over the world.

The human liver consists of eight segments, each with its individual blood supply and bile drainage. Individual segments or a combination of segments are retrieved from the living donor and transplanted into the patient. The remaining liver in the donor will regenerate and replace itself to its normal size and function within four to six weeks. Similarly, the transplanted liver in the patient regenerates rapidly. The donor operation takes around six to eight hours while the recipient operation eight to ten hours.

According to the hospital, the donor is nursed in the intensive care for about 24 hours and could be out of bed with assistance after two or three days and can resume light work activities within a month, depending on recovery. While there are complications like pain, bleeding and infection along with pneumonia, bile leakage and DVT, the risk of death is estimated to be between 0.1 and 0.5 per cent. The donor is usually a close relative or emotionally related to the recipient.

Few hospitals in the world are equipped to perform these delicate operations, one such hospital is the Gleneagles Hospital, Singapore, which has it's presence at the Arab Health Exhibition currently on at the International Exhibition Center, Dubai under the brand 'Singapore Medicine'.

This unique branding, which brings all healthcare providers under one umbrella, has seen over 200,000 international patients flock to Singapore, making it a medical hub in the region.

This is a radical shift from the past when the West was popular for its numerous medical destinations but sky-high costs prohibited 'normal' people from considering it.

Patients from the US , choose Singapore over their own country for delicate operations because of the excellent medical infrastructure. They note that even with the airfare, it was cheaper in Singapore than if they had stayed in the US.


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