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BIDMC Surgeons Perform Two Adult Liver Transplant Cases

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Surgeons Perform Two Adult Liver Transplant Cases Liver Center quickly positions itself as a regional resource for liver care and surgery

  • Date: 5/12/2000
  • BIDMC Contact: Patti Embry-Tautenhan
  • Phone: 617-975-6147

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Surgeons Perform Two Adult Liver Transplant Cases Liver Center quickly positions itself as a regional resource for liver care and surgery

Boston--Less than four weeks after receiving approval to conduct liver transplantation surgery, the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center's Liver Center has transplanted livers in two adult patients.

On Friday, April 28 Maureen Martin, M.D., chief of the division of liver surgery and transplantation, and Amadeo Marcos, M.D, director of the living donor transplant program, transplanted a liver into Carmen Rivera, 56, a St. Johnsbury, Vt. resident. Rivera was seriously ill with hepatitis C and was suffering from end-stage liver disease. A liver transplantation was her only medical option for survival. Three days later, on May 1, the same team of surgeons transplanted a liver into Patricia Spencer, 65, a West Roxbury, Mass. resident. This patient was critically ill and was in the intensive care unit when a donor liver was identified. She would have died without a liver transplant. Both livers were procured from the New England Organ Bank.

"I am absolutely delighted that the Liver Center has come together so quickly and that we are already helping patients in Boston and New England battle their liver disease," says Martin. "Liver disease is a significant and growing health problem in the United States. This is clearly the case with hepatitis C, which is a national epidemic."

Rivera, a mother of five, is the first liver transplantation patient at BIDMC since Martin was recruited to direct the Liver Center. Rivera had been waiting for a liver transplant for more than three years. She transferred to the BIDMC waiting list this past April. During the past six months, her quality of life steadily diminished as the liver disease progressed and forced her to be in and out of the hospital. However, Rivera's patience was rewarded when Martin called her on the morning of April 28 to say that the Liver Center had a liver waiting for her. Within an hour of the call Rivera was on the road for the 170-mile drive to Boston, and less than 18 hours later was recuperating at BIDMC with her new liver.

"I feel like I have been given a second chance on life," says Rivera, who shared that she is thrilled that she can now escort one of her daughters when the daughter is married this August. "I am so happy. I now want to volunteer and spend time with people who waiting for transplantation surgery."

Liver disease, while not as well known to the public as heart disease, is a significant national health problem due to the seriousness of its disorders and the numbers of people affected. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. In addition, there are an estimated 3.9 million Americans chronically infected with hepatitis C, a disease that sometimes shows no symptoms until well advanced in its severity. The hepatitis C virus is the leading cause of liver transplants in the United States. Studies suggest that 20 percent of the chronically infected will develop cirrhosis or severe fibrosis (scarring) over time, resulting in an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 deaths per year. It is estimated that this death rate could triple during the next two decades.

The BIDMC Liver Center utilizes a multidisciplinary approach to treating liver diseases and conditions, with an emphasis on four areas: liver failure, liver tumors, liver transplant, and viral hepatitis. Martin, Marcos and Nazem H. Afdhal, M.D., a leading medical expert in hepatitis C, comprise the Center's medical leadership team. Martin was recruited from Iowa to direct the Liver Center. Marcos, who has performed the most adult living donor transplant surgeries in the United States, recently joined BIDMC from the Medical College of Virginia. Recruited from Boston University, Afdhal is the chief of hepatology at the Liver Center is the principal investigator of a national study aimed at determining if a tandem of two drugs can prevent liver damage from hepatitis C. In addition, he heads the Liver Center's viral hepatitis program.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a major patient care, research and teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School and a founding member of CareGroup Healthcare System. BIDMC is the third largest recipient of National Institutes of Health research funding among independent U.S. teaching hospitals.