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  • Writer's pictureProf. Dr. Deniz Balcı

Liver Transplantation for a New Life

The liver, one of the most important organs in our body, is located in the upper right side of the abdomen and serves many functions such as metabolism, synthesis, breakdown, storage, blood purification, and more, making it akin to the body's factory.

Rising Liver Issues...Liver diseases are becoming more common in society every day, and liver transplantation for diseases resulting in liver failure is the second most common type of organ transplant after kidney transplantation.

Essential in Liver Cirrhosis...Liver transplantation is the only permanent treatment for the symptoms and findings arising from liver disease, defined as the irreversible structural damage to the liver in cirrhosis disease. In our country, the most common causes of cirrhosis in adults include Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C viral infections, liver cancers, alcohol dependency, and advanced liver fat accumulation, while congenital metabolic and structural diseases are rare causes.

Liver Transplants...Our country has become one of the countries with the highest number of liver transplants from living donors as of last year. Approximately 1250 liver transplants were performed in our country in 2013. Of these, about 1000 were from living donors, and about 250 were from organs donated from deceased donors. Liver transplantation involves two separate major surgeries performed simultaneously for the organ donor and organ recipient. In liver transplant surgery, while the diseased liver is removed from the patient's body, a healthy new liver is obtained from the donor and transplanted in its place. The liver can be obtained from two different sources: living donors or deceased donors. Cadaveric liver transplantation is a complex transplant procedure involving the removal of the liver from a deceased person who has experienced brain death and the placement of this liver in the recipient's body, where the diseased liver has been removed.

Not Suitable for Everyone...Liver transplantation is not performed in individuals with widespread and uncontrolled infections in the body, widespread non-liver cancer, severe heart and lung failure, active HIV infection, and those who still consume alcohol.

Center and Teamwork in Liver Transplantation...All patients requiring liver transplantation are registered on waiting lists at authorized centers in our country, and these lists are maintained in a database of the Ministry of Health. When brain death is detected in a person anywhere in the country and if the deceased person has donated their organs, or if their family is donating the organs at that time, this is reported to the Ministry of Health's Organ Transplant National Coordination Center. With rapid work, the tissue, the relevant organ, and the registered information among potential recipients are evaluated, and the appropriate person receives the organ transplant.

Conditions for Liver Transplantation...To be a liver donor, one must be between the ages of 18-60, have sound mind and body health, and not have a chronic illness that would prevent organ donation. In addition, for Turkish citizens, organ donors must be related to the recipient up to the 4th degree by law. For those who are not relatives, approval from an ethical board, consisting of doctors, lawyers, and coordinators under the Ministry of Health, is required.

Everyone Should Donate Organs...In our country, there are about 5 liver transplants from deceased donors per million population. This rate is around 20 people in Europe and 25 people in the USA; however, due to the insufficient organ donation in our country, hundreds of liver patients lose their lives every year while waiting for an organ. Living donor liver transplantation involves transplanting a portion of a healthy liver from a healthy individual who voluntarily donates, minimizing the risk for the donor and providing an adequate amount of liver for the recipient.

Returning to Life...Liver transplantation is a long, difficult, and risky surgery. It requires a complex series of procedures that involve teamwork from many different disciplines, including preparation of patients before surgery, performing the surgery, and monitoring patients after surgery. Experience is crucial here. Ankara University, with its Organ Transplant Unit, successfully performs liver and other organ transplants from both deceased and living donors for both adults and children, not only for Turkey but also for many countries in its region.


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