Dying wife saved in world first transplant

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 July, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 July, 1994, 12:00am

THE world's first liver transplant involving a living, unrelated donor has been carried out at Queen Mary Hospital, although the operation was marred by the loss of the recipient's unborn baby.

The emergency operation was carried out more than two weeks ago, but only made public yesterday, after a man gave part of his liver to save his dying wife.

Dr Lai Ching-lung, of the Department of Medicine, said: ''The operation was a success and both the woman and her husband are recovering well.'' The 26-year-old recipient was six months' pregnant at the time of the operation and suffered a spontaneous abortion.

Dr Lai said: ''I don't think they expected to lose the child but there were too many complications in this case to perform a Caesarean section.

''They were lucky that they had the same blood type which made it possible to transplant part of the husband's liver to his wife to save her life.'' Doctors said the patient had deteriorated rapidly just before the operation and was on the verge of becoming delirious.

''Without the transplant she would almost certainly have died from acute liver failure but she is now doing fine,'' Dr Lai said.

The woman regained consciousness two days after the operation and has been moved out of the hospital's intensive care unit.

Live related liver transplants have been carried out a number of times in Hong Kong using part of a mother's or father's liver to save their dying child.

In one case a sister saved her little brother's life with the donation of part of her liver.

Last year the Prince of Wales Hospital was poised to perform the first live, unrelated liver transplant after six strangers offered part of their liver to save the life of a seven-month-old baby.

But although an ethics committee gave the operation the go-ahead, all the would-be donors were found to be unsuitable.

The Queen Mary Hospital also made medical history when it performed the first successful emergency liver transplant for acute liver failure in Hong Kong.

The ground-breaking operation was carried out on a 39-year-old woman on June 30 after she lapsed into a coma following the death of all her liver cells.

Dr Lai said: ''We were lucky to find a suitable cadaveric donor for her and so we were able to perform our first unplanned, emergency transplant.'' The liver came from a 38-year-old donor who had died from massive bleeding in the brain.

The patient was deteriorating rapidly and would have died without a liver transplant.

But the cadaveric transplant is one of the few that doctors expect to carry out in Hong Kong due to the shortage of donors, even though more than 9,000 people have joined the territory's first organ donor register.