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Transplant saves two people with one organ (2/11/97)

For the first time in Texas, a donated liver has been split and successfully transplanted into two separate liver transplant recipients.

Dr. Glenn A. Halff, director of Organ Transplantation Programs at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, assistant professor of surgery at UTHSCSA and Dr. James Eason of Wilford Hall Medical Center split the liver of an organ donor. Dr. Halff transplanted the larger portion of the liver into a middle-aged female and Dr. Eason transplanted the smaller portion of the liver into a 5-month-old boy. The surgeries were performed on Jan. 8, 1997.

Dr. Halff performed his eight-hour surgery on the first recipient at University Hospital. The operation on the second recipient was performed at Wilford Hall. The second recipient's father is in the Marine Corps and is stationed in Southern California. Wilford Hall Medical Center is the transplant center for all military-related liver transplant operations and, as a military dependent, the child was sent to San Antonio for the surgery.

"The liver is unique in its ability to continue to grow to appropriate size in both recipients," said Dr. Halff. "Dr. Eason and I had recently discussed the feasibility of doing a split liver transplant, and the health of this organ in this particular donor, together with the severity of the illness of the patients, seemed to make this an ideal time to try this procedure.

"There is a severe shortage of donors," Dr. Halff continued, "and this organ-splitting procedure can help us more effectively deal with the shortage of organs. Patients are frequently dying while they are waiting for a transplant. This is one innovation that can help save at least some lives each year. I imagine transplant physicians will look at most future liver transplants with the thought of trying to save two lives, but the greatest likelihood of success occurs when the liver is split between an adult and a child, as it was in this case."

Another important aspect of this surgery is the remarkable cooperation and collaboration that exists between Health Science Center physicians and the military physicians, Dr. Halff added. Wilford Hall is one of the Health Science Center's finest teaching hospitals, and is undoubtedly one of the finest military hospitals in the nation. Patients from both institutions benefit from the close cooperation between our university physicians and our military physicians, he said.

Since beginning the liver transplant program at the Health Science Center in 1992, Halff's team has performed 63 liver transplants, with a 90 percent success rate.

"I am grateful to the donor in this particular situation, and to *all* donors, and am especially thankful that both patients are recovering so well," Dr. Halff said.

Contact: Judy Wolf (210) 567-2570