Surgeons use innovative, safer procedure for living liver donation

picture disc. Jean Botha, M.D.

“I made it 18 years before I needed a transplant,” the Manhattan, Kan. native said. “And for most of those 18 years, I was very healthy.”

But the good health Hart enjoyed quickly came to an end.

Hart got on the waiting list for a transplant. His wife, meanwhile, spread the word about the possibility of a living donor.

Uncommon knowledge

A lot of people aren’t aware that the liver is one of the few organs that can regenerate, so they didn’t know living donation was even an option.

Historically speaking, a large portion of a living donor’s liver — about 65 percent — was removed to be placed into the patient who needed a new liver, said Jean Botha, M.D., associate professor of transplant at UNMC.

A safer solution

But Dr. Botha and others at UNMC’s hospital partner, The Nebraska Medical Center, can now use a method in which a smaller piece of the donor’s liver is taken for the transplant.

“This makes the operation safer for them, while still providing the recipient with the opportunity to get transplanted and to survive,” Dr. Botha said. “So we are now taking the left lobe from the donor to be able to make it work in the recipient.”

A reassured patient

It was this new procedure, Hart said, that prompted him to accept a donation from a member of his church, Josh Nelson. There was another realization that helped Hart accept Nelson’s offer.

“I realized if I accepted this gift from Josh, the liver I would’ve possibly gotten (from a cadaver) could go to someone else,” Hart said. “Another life would be saved in addition to mine, so really we got two great benefits out of the one gift Josh gave.”