Living-related liver transplant makes history at Strong

July 26, 2000

The first adult-to-adult, living-related liver transplant in Upstate New York was performed Tuesday at Strong Memorial Hospital of the University of Rochester Medical Center. Laura Hawes, 21, of Lockport donated a portion of her liver to her mother, Karen Fritton, 42, also of Lockport. Ms. Fritton was diagnosed with hepatitis C last year and was on a waiting list for a new liver.

Living-related transplantation allows a family member or close friend to donate a portion of his or her liver, if found to be compatible, to the patient. During the eight- to 12-hour operation, surgeons remove 60 percent of the donor's liver. That portion of the organ replaces the recipient's damaged liver.

Both livers experience regeneration, growing to normal size and function within weeks. The liver, the largest organ in the human body, is the only one that can regenerate. The first living-related liver transplant in Upstate New York was performed at Strong Memorial Hospital in February 1999. Robert Warner, 28, of Binghamton donated a portion of his liver to his 6-month-old daughter, Savannah, who was born with a rare congenital defect known as biliary atresia.

Transplanting a portion of a living-related liver from one adult to another is more difficult than transplanting a portion of an adult liver to a child because surgeons must sever and connect more bile ducts and arteries.

Leading the transplant team on Tuesday were transplant surgeons Luis Mieles, M.D., Mark Orloff, M.D., and Amadeo Marcos, M.D., who joined Strong's transplant team this summer. Marcos has performed more than 50 adult-to-adult, living-related liver transplants during his career, more than anyone in the United States. He was recruited from the Medical College of Virginia, where he pioneered the procedure.

Marcos earned his medical degree in 1987 from the Univerisidad Central de Venezuela. He received training at the Jose Maria Vargas Hospital in Caracas, Venezuela, and the Instituto de Oncologia Luis Razetti, also in Caracas. He served as a special fellow in hepatobiliary surgery and liver transplantation at Harvard Medical School in Boston, and was a transplant fellow at the Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University, as well as a visiting fellow in the Krankenhaus Eppendorf University Transplant Program in Hamburg, Germany.

Traditional transplantation, which requires a compatible donor liver, can mean a patient is on a waiting list for 250 days or more, depending on their blood type. There are about 200 patients on the waiting list in the Finger Lakes Region. Because only 30 percent of potential living-related donors are compatible with a patient in need of a new liver, traditional donor organs are still an important part of saving lives.

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