Ho Chi Minh City to perform first adult liver transplant

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Doctors at Cho Ray Hospital perform a liver transplant on a pig.

Doctors at Ho Chi Minh City's leading hospital Cho Ray are preparing to perform the city's first adult liver transplant with the help of South Korean colleagues this Friday.

The transplant will give a 52-year-old woman, only identified by her initials C.T.K.D., from the Central Highlands' Dak Nong Province a new liver, from her own son, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reported.

Her mother, 74, her husband, 54, and her daughter also registered as donors, but tests chose the son, 22.

The son, now a senior student at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Foreign Languages and Information Technology, said his mother has always been the closest person to him, thus it was "natural" for him to give her a liver when she's in need.

D. has suffered liver decline since 2004. She received regular treatments from Cho Ray hospital until doctors there told the family in 2008 to bring her abroad for a liver transplant as hers was so damaged.

But the family could not afford such treatment as both D. and her husband are teachers with modest incomes. So they have stayed with Cho Ray doctors in the hope of lengthening her life as long as they could.

The wait might now pay off as 15 doctors from the ASAN Medical Center, where Cho Ray doctors have been studying for the past two years, are coming to help with the transplant.

ASAN is a major liver transplant destination in the world with between 300 and 350 cases every year, or more than 3,000 transplants so far, all successful, said doctor Nguyen Tan Cuong, head of the liver department at Cho Ray.

He said "the most magnificent" thing is that the donor can give as much as 65 percent of their liver and the rest will recover almost to its original status.

Cho Ray and the Health Ministry would pay for the cost of the first two liver transplants at the hospital, estimated at more than VND1 billion (US$48,000) each. The cost is around VND4 billion in Singapore and more than VND2 billion in other countries.

A source from the hospital said the second transplant will be performed with a donor that is mentally dead.

The Health Ministry initiated the organ transplant project in 1999 and Cho Ray Hospital has performed more than 60 experimental liver transplants on pigs between 1999 and 2003. Its doctors also went to the US and Europe for training.

Hope for liver cancer

Cuong, who will lead the surgery team at the upcoming transplant, said it has been a dream at the hospital to perform such an operation.

The procedure "will open more chances for life to severe liver patients who have liver fibrosis, liver decline, and others," he told Tuoi Tre.

It can also help save patients from liver cancer, he said.

The doctor said liver transplants from donors of dead brains have been performed at many Western countries but religious beliefs have prevented many families in Asian countries, including Vietnam, from agreeing to that.

Vietnam has hosted 17 liver transplants among children at the National Hospital of Pediatrics in Hanoi and the Children's Hospital No.2 in Ho Chi Minh City, and six adult transplants at Hospital 103 and Vietnam-Germany Hospital in Hanoi.

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