Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh announces first successful Scottish live donor liver transplant

The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh Transplant Unit is delighted to announce that the first live donor liver transplant has been successfully carried out on a young couple who live in Ardrossan.

Jennifer Foster gave over half of her liver to her husband Daniel Foster in a procedure that lasted about 10 hours in total. Jennifer recovered relatively rapidly from her operation and was able to be discharged six days following the procedure. Her husband Daniel has also been discharged with every indication that the new liver has grown significantly and is now capable of sustaining his life long-term.

Mr Murat Akyol and Mr Ernest Hidalgo, consultant surgeons in charge in Daniel and Jennifer's operations respectively, said:

"This is a truly extra-ordinary gift from Jennifer to her husband. We are delighted that we were given the opportunity to undertake this procedure for them. It was a pleasure and relief to see Jennifer recover so quickly. It is now great to see Daniel being discharged home with every prospect of continuing to improve in the forthcoming weeks and months."

The operation is the first of its kind in Scotland. Three previous live donor liver transplants have been performed for NHS patients in Leeds during the past year. The procedure is more commonplace across the world but the stakes are high both for the donor and recipient and therefore the procedure has been slow in being introduced across the United Kingdom.

The liver is capable of rapid regeneration. Therefore it is possible to remove a portion of liver and transplant this to another individual. In the recipient the liver grows in size quickly and will sustain the individual in good health. Likewise the remnant of liver in the donor undergoes increase in volume so that the donor is able to return to normal life after recovery from the major operation.

Maureen Cunningham the co-ordinator in charge of organising the multi-disciplinary team which is necessary to carry out such an operation said:

" This has been a huge undertaking for the couple but also for the Transplant Unit. So many people were involved in making sure that the operation was a success both in the assessment of Jennifer and also in the follow-up care. It is still early days but we have every hope of long-term health in both Jennifer and Daniel."

Jennifer Foster said:

"I'm elated that this operation has been a success. Through the Live Liver Donor Programme, and with the help of the dedicated transplant team, we have been able to save Dan's life.
"This type of operation will open up a new avenue for some liver transplant patients who have a willing, suitable donor. However this procedure involves major surgery on an otherwise healthy person and I believe my operation would not have been necessary if our country's donor system met the demand for much needed organs. People on the list are dying needlessly whilst awaiting a suitable donor to become available, and I feel the current policy is long overdue an update to remedy this.
"I appeal to anyone who has ever considered becoming a donor, to sign up. Every one of us has the potential to help save a life."

Dan added:

"Through the live liver donor program, and the incredible courage and love of my wife, I've been given a new chance at life.
"I was lucky enough to marry Jen in Fiji last May, but shortly after that my liver disease progressed. I was listed for a transplant in September, but as the months went by, the phone call never came.
"Jen had many months of tests to establish if she was a suitable donor, and as fate would have it we are a match in every way.
"It was an impossibly hard decision to make but we feel it was the right one.
"Through the amazing support we've received from family, friends, and my employers at Linn, we've made it through and were both on the road to recovery.
"I can never thank the entire transplant team at the ERI enough - there is nowhere else I would rather have undergone this, and they have saved my life.
"I can't wait to start living the years ahead with my amazing wife."

The only thing that limits the success of transplantation is shortage of donors. Eight thousand patients across the United Kingdom wait for a life-saving transplant. Every year approximately 1000 patients die whilst waiting for a transplant or are removed from the list because their health has deteriorated in the meantime.

John Forsythe, Director of the Transplant Unit, said:

"We are delighted that the operation has gone so well. We are also grateful for the resources to allow the procedure to happen.
"However, in many ways we would like not to have to perform live donor liver transplantation. The risks are high for both for the recipient and the donor and operating on a donor feels different to anything else that we do because the benefit is not to that patient alone.
"At present there is major change in the way that organ donation is organised across Scotland and the United Kingdom. We can only hope that an increase in organ donation allows more people to receive a life-saving transplant and perhaps make live donor transplantation less likely in the future."