Thursday, May 30, 2013

Living Organ Donation

I sometimes forget that I live in a different world from most people.  My world includes rare diseases and genetic testing.  Trips to the hospital and patient procedures are all in a regular day for us.  Alexa goes to the doctors office and plays with gauze and tourniquets instead of toys.  My knowledge of the medical field and procedures has increased 1000% from 5 little years back.  There are things that I know about that I never would want people to have to learn.  It's a different world that I needed to learn quickly and it is continual adjustment as more information becomes available.

I sometimes forget that not everyone is up to speed on the latest surgical procedures for liver transplant recipients.  And I sometimes throw things out there that not everyone understands.
A bit ago, I mentioned HERE that Christian was starting the process for living organ donation.  I will have some very important updates in respect to this very soon but we need a bit more time)
Immediately after that post, I had friends and family asking what that involved.

Living Donation occurs when a living person donates an organ or part of an organ for transplant to another person in need.
In our case, part of the liver (a lobe) would be removed from the donor and transplanted into Alexa immediately after they remove her liver.
Live donor liver transplantation is possible because the liver, unlike any other organ in the body, has the ability to regenerate, or grow. Both sections of the liver regenerate within a period of 6 to 10 weeks after surgery.  This type of surgery first began more than a decade ago using the left lobe of the liver in adult donors for children who needed transplants.

There is quite an extensive list of tests that are involved:  

  • Firstly, blood type must match
  • Blood samples are obtained to confirm normal organ function and test for the presence of several viral diseases
  • An electrocardiogram and a chest x-ray are obtained to confirm normal heart and lung function. If these studies are normal then CT (computerized tomography), ultrasound, and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans are arranged.
  • The surgeons then review these tests to ensure that the liver is healthy and the anatomy is suitable for transplant surgery.  In some cases further studies are required such as a liver biopsy or an x-ray of the bile ducts (CT cholangiogram).  
  • If the screening blood work and scans are satisfactory, potential donor is offered a tentative target surgery date based on their availability. Once a target date is defined the potential donor will complete a number of consultations with other health care specialists. The potential donor is seen by a psychiatrist, an independent medical doctor who does not work directly with the transplant team, and one or more of the donor surgeons.
As with any surgery there are very real and scary risks involved (both financial and medical risks).  The recuperation time can be up to 3 months.  Up to 30% of liver donors will experience complications. Most of these complications are mild and temporary; however, some can be very serious and life-threatening complications.   
It is not an easy decision to enter in living donation, most who decide to donate do so as it provides an opportunity to restore health to a loved one.  It also provides the recipient with a better quality organ than from a deceased donor and the transplant can be performed at an optimal time before the recipient's health worsens.

Welcome to a little bit of our world!

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