The liver is the largest internal organ in our body, weighing about 3 pounds. It is reddish-brown and rubbery to the touch (WebMD, n.d.). Our liver is one of the most important organs in our bodies. It exists to process nutrients from the food we eat, make proteins, make bile and remove toxins.
These processes can get interfered due to liver failure, when the liver is damaged to an extent that it won’t function normally for months or years. The main causes for liver failure include hepatitis B, hepatitis C, long-term alcohol consumption, cirrhosis and malnutrition (WebMD, n.d.).
It is crucial that the affected person applies for a liver transplant. A liver transplant is an operation in which the patient’s damaged liver is replaced with a healthy liver from a donor.¬ There are three main types of liver transplant: orthotopic transplant, the most common type of transplant, where the patient’s liver is replaced by a liver from a deceased donor; living donor transplant, where a living person willingly donates his liver for the patient; and split type of liver transplant: where the liver of a deceased donor is split into the two lobes and given to two recipients, applicable if the patients are an adult and a child (Mandal, n.d.
The United States of America alone performs around 6,000 transplants a year (American Liver Foundation, 2013), and has performed 592,589 to date since 1988, according to OTPN (Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network) statistics. Patients have an 86% chance and a 78% chance of living one and three years respectively after a transplant.
However, there are more patients waiting than there are available livers. So there are issues when deciding who would be an appropriate candidate for a transplant.
The timeline of liver transplantation is given below (Azzam, 2012; The Official Dr. Thomas E. Starzl Web Site, n.d.; Zimmerman et al., n.d.)
1953 – Between March 1st and October 4th, Dr. Thomas E. Starzl attempts five liver transplants.
One patient bleeds to death during the operation, the other four die 6 to 23 days later due
to lung infections.
1955 – C. Stuart Welch reports on his efforts to transplant auxiliary livers into non-
immunosuppressed mongrel dogs.
1958 to 1961 – Dr. Francis D. Moore describes the standard technique of canine liver orthotopic
liver transplantation. He then performs more than 150 transplant experiments on
1962 – Starzl obtains a supply of azathioprine, an immunosuppressive drug.
1963 – In March 1st, Starzl attempts the first human orthotopic liver transplantation in a 3-year-
old boy suffering from biliary atresia (where bile accumulates due to the bile ducts not
having proper openings and damages the liver), but it ends in failure.
1963 – In September, Moore attempts a transplant in Boston. It fails.
1964 – Another failed attempt by Jean Demirleau in Paris, in January.