Doctors in Ho Chi Minh City and their Belgian colleagues successfully transplanted part of a 29-year-old mother's liver to her sick 1-year-old child on Thursday.
The transplant, which is the eighth of its kind at Children’s Hospital No.2, was performed on a late-stage cirrhosis patient P.N.M.H., Vietnam News Agency reported.
Doctors from Saint Luc Hospital, Belgium, assisted in the operation.
Doctor Truong Quang Dinh, deputy director of the hospital, said the surgeries went rather smoothly for both mother and child.
Dinh said the mother has been recovering well, regained consciousness, and can speak, but she will need two to three weeks to fully recover.
The first thing she did was ask about her child, who will be closely supervised for three months and undergo tests to assess any possible rejection of the donated organ, he said.
Dr Nguyen Cam Tu from the hospital’s digestion department said doctors ordered a liver transplant as the baby’s cirrhosis had resulted in a dangerous bacterial infection and pneumonia.
H. was undernourished, weighing 7.7 kilograms before the surgery, with yellow skin and swollen belly caused by an infected liver and spleen.
The baby’s life was at risk, Tuoi Tre newspaper quoted Tu as saying.
Not enough guts
The hospital, which has performed 12 kidney transplants, faces a complete lack of liver donors.
Around 96 babies are born in Vietnam with bile duct atrophy, every year.
At least half of them need a liver transplant, Dinh said.
The hospital found that bile duct and liver conditions are the reason for eight percent of pediatric admissions.
Another study at Children’s Hospital No.1 and Cho Ray Hospital counted 310 children below 19 years old who were admitted between 2001 and 2005 with liver decline.
Because many parents either lack a compatible blood type with their children’s or suffer from communicable diseases (e.g. hepatitis), Dinh said more organ donations are needed, especially from brain-dead accident victims.
Professor Tran Dong A, former deputy director the hospital who has participated in all eight of the country's Belgian-backed liver transplants, said seven of the donors were the recipients' mothers; one was the father.
In most cases, the fathers volunteered to donate, but tests found the mothers to be better matches.
The donors all fully recovered three months after the transplant, he said, adding that four of the mothers went on to have additional children.
Four of the recipient children survived the transplants; the rest died from PTLD (post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder).
Transplant patients usually have to take a cocktail drugs to prevent their immune system from attacking the donated organ. Long-term use of the drugs can lead to the disorder.
Dr Dinh said his hospital has perfected transplant technology and the death rate so far is roughly equivalent to the early days of hospitals that began performing the transplants all over the world.
He said no child died in the first year of their transplants, which guaranteed technical quality.
The children started to die during the second post-surgery year, due to bacterial or viral infections and PTLD--which are global challenges.
Dinh said the high cost also discourages many parents from taking the risk. Vietnam’s public health insurance does not cover organ transplants.