November 19, 1998
Kathleen Reilly, 51, in rapidly deteriorating health from end stage liver disease, had been awaiting a donor liver for a year and seemed unlikely to get a conventional transplant in time to save her life.
Paul J. Thuluvath, M.D., her physician at Johns Hopkins, proposed another solution: If Kathleen had a friend or family member who would be a good match, they could remove part of that person's healthy liver and transplant it into Kathleen.
The Oceanport, N.J., woman had to be talked into it, but on Nov. 11, in a pair of operations totaling 17 hours, Hopkins transplant surgeons Andrew S. Klein, M.D., and Warren R. Maley, M.D., removed the right lobe of her healthy, 22-year-old son Daniel's liver to replace her irreparably damaged one. The region's first living related donor procedure took 60 percent of Daniel's organ, whose remaining lobe is expected to fully regenerate.
Since 1992, living donor liver transplants have been performed at Hopkins with excellent results in children, removing a relatively small portion of an adult liver and transplanting it into a child. To successfully perform a similar procedure for an adult recipient, however, required removal of a larger portion of the donor's liver.
Daniel Reilly is to be commended as a hero, the surgeons say.
"Daniel had only a 1 percent risk of dying from his operation," says Maley, "but his mother was understandably reluctant to consider any risk to her only child." Daniel, however, was determined. "His was an act of enormous generosity," the surgeon says.
Both Reillys are expected to recover fully within six weeks and the transplant team plans to use the procedure with other families with members on organ waiting lists. An estimated 30 living related liver donations have been transplanted in adults in the United States since 1992 and more overseas.
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