Vietnam's high-profile liver transplant surpasses hopes

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Diep Duc Loc, 22, regains consciousness two hours after giving 65 percent of his liver to his mother at Cho Ray Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. His father and his aunt visit him in this picture.

Ho Chi Minh City's first adult liver transplant went even better than planned, said the procedure's chief surgeon, who received help from South Korean doctors during the operation.

Dr Nguyen Tan Cuong, head of the hepatology department at the city's leading hospital, Cho Ray, said the transplant from a 22-year-old son to his 52-year-old mother was successful in many ways.

Cuong told a press briefing Monday that the liver receiver was able to walk two days after the procedure on Friday, Tuoi Tre reported. 

The mother had already walked to the next room to visit her son, he said.

Tests found that her new liver was functioning properly and there was no sign of rejection.

Her son, who gave her 65 percent of his liver -- the highest ratio allowed by current technology -- gained consciousness just two hours after the surgery. He could speak then and was able to have soup and milk as of Monday, said Cuong. 

He also said the transplant required a much smaller blood transfusion than prepared.

The surgery took less than 14 hours, the same amount of time as a similar operation at Korea's ASAN Medical Center, a leading global liver transplant destination with more than 3,000 transplants conducted successfully so far.

ASAN center, where Cho Ray doctors have been studying for the past two years, sent 15 doctors to help 22 Vietnamese colleagues with the transplant.

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Cuong said the procedure succeeded despite the unexpected discovery that the woman had three spleens instead of the normal two and all of them suffered from hypersplenism a disorder where the spleen is overactive and damages blood cells. The doctors had to remove all three spleens.

The woman will need intensive care for two more weeks while her son 7-10 days.

Cuong said the boy's liver will recover to 80 percent of its original size after eight weeks, but he can be discharged after one month.

The woman, Cung Thi Kim Dinh, 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 too damaged.

But the family could not afford that and she continued treatment at the hospital until the wait paid off.

Cho Ray and the Health Ministry are now paying 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.

Her mother, husband and daughter also registered to be donors, but tests chose the son, Diep Huu Loc, a university senior.

Cuong said the success would open doors to many patients with severe liver conditions such as liver fibrosis or liver cancer.

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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