Out with the Old, In with the Not-So-New?

This particular NYTimes article by Denise Grady featured a brave, 8 year old boy named, Jonathan Nunez. When Jonathan was an infant his liver failed:

At 8 months, a transplant was his only hope. His parents took a chance on an unusual operation: He had a transplant, but part of his own liver was left in place in the hope that it might eventually recover so that the donor organ would no longer be needed. If that happened, the anti-rejection drugs would be stopped and, with luck, Jonathan’s immune system would destroy the transplant, leaving his own liver to do its job. The advantage to this approach was that it would leave Jonathan free of the lifetime of powerful anti-rejection drugs that transplant patients normally require (Grady 1)

Jonathan and his parents went through a devastating ordeal; however, it paid off. Jonathan’s liver grew back and the transplant is gone. This seems to be the epitome of a modern miracle. Yet, this procedure has not caught on:

But for all its apparent promise, the operation his family chose has not really caught on — to the dismay of Jonathan’s surgeon, Dr. Tomoaki Kato of NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in Manhattan. Few children who need liver transplants are candidates for the procedure, and other surgeons are wary because it is complex, lengthy and riskier than a standard transplant. And it doesn’t always work: The children’s own livers do not always recover. Even so, Dr. Kato believes that doctors should be performing the surgery, called auxiliary partial orthotopic liver transplantation — more often, and that it should at least be considered for any child under 10 who needs a transplant because of acute liver failure (Grady 1)

Dr. Kato believes that the rewards outweigh the risks because a child who undergoes this procedure will never have to take anti-rejection medication. Anti-rejection medication is used to ensure that the body does not reject the donor organ. Sadly, these drugs suppress the immune system and can increase the risk of cancer, infections, and other health problems (Grady 1). The procedure has its risks and does not work for every patient, but it is up to the parents to decide which method of treatment they want for their child.

Surgery taking place at Rabin Medical Center.
Surgery taking place at Rabin Medical Center.

Rabin Medical Center’s Organ Transplantation Center is the finest and largest in Israel. Currently, the Hospital is seeking funding to build a new ambulatory wing of the Organ Transplantation Center to ensure that patients have a spacious and welcoming environment. If you would like more information about the project and the Center or if you would like to help fund this project, please contact afrmc@afrmc.org .

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