HEALTH

Doctors Testing New Liver Transplant Transport System

Mar 2, 2020, 7:11 PM | Updated: 8:53 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Every year, approximately 2,500 Americans with liver disease die on the transplant list waiting for a donor liver.

Now, Intermountain Healthcare officials are testing a new liver transport system that could save some of those patients by better preserving the organs in transit.

For five decades, livers have been successfully transported from donor to recipient in coolers. Livers have been riding in bags of special fluid, packed in ice since the first successful liver transplant in 1967. That’s called “static” cold preservation, which keeps the liver in a solution inside a cooler.

But, to another for transplant surgery. This new preservation method is considered “active,” and was designed to improve the process.

“This is the cutting edge of transplant,” said Jake Krong, research manager at Intermountain Transplant Services.

Doctors at Intermountain Healthcare have now performed ten liver transplants with organs transported in the hypothermic machine perfusion pump. It’s a large case, the size of a car-top carrier, that has what a liver needs to essentially keep working.

The hypothermic machine perfusion pump has what a liver needs to essentially keep working.

“We’re keeping that liver working in a somewhat normal, physiologic state during the time that it’s out of the donor’s body and before it goes into the recipient’s body,” Krong said.

That can be hours. They regularly transport livers throughout the region, and even further when necessary. The hypothermic machine perfusion pump keeps the organ cold and healthy in transit.

“So, we are allowing that organ to stay working in a normal way during that whole time,” Krong said. “If this saves one more patient’s life, it is priceless.”

“We keep plenty of ice to make sure that it stays super cold,” said Jake Finnerty with DonorConnect Surgical Recovery Coordinator as he showed how the pump works. “Also, with the perfusion solution circulating through that organ, we’re eliminating any stagnant blood that might stay in there.”

Intermountain Healthcare is participating in the clinical trial with five other transplant centers. The Intermountain Transplant Research Department is collaborating with DonorConnect, Utah’s organ procurement organization, which facilitates, coordinates, registers and advocates for donors and donor families.

During the study, DonorConnect organ preservation technicians work with the transplant surgeons to hook up donated livers to the machine. They also help transport the livers for transplant and assist the Intermountain research coordinators with data collection.

“We do not have enough organs to go around to take care of everybody on the list,” said Dr. Diane Alonso, an Intermountain Healthcare transplant surgeon who has used the new machine with her patients.

So, doctors are eager for innovation that helps preserve more organs and gets them to patients. With this machine, doctors can use organs that are farther away, and may not be as healthy.

“That expands our organ pool, and every organ counts because that is one more life saved. So, for us if we can expand the pool by five or 10% that’s a big deal,” Alonso said. “In the long run, we hope to use this technology in the future to increase the number of organs available for transplantation, while reducing complications and shortening the length of hospital stays.”

Especially for patients like 47-year-old Laura Adams from West Jordan, who found out she had liver disease five years ago.

“It was slowly destroying my liver,” she said.

Then, a year ago, she was diagnosed with liver cancer.

“The cancer is aggressive. The cancer is hard to contain, and usually by the time people get an appropriate diagnosis it’s too late for them,” Adams said.

Last October, medical officials had a donor liver for Adams and she agreed to participate in the trial. The liver she matched with was a Hepatitis C-infected liver, but doctors told her, “We can cure Hep. C. We can’t cure cancer.”

So, she accepted the Hepatitis C-positive liver.

“In my mind, it wasn’t really to my benefit as much as it would be. Well, what can you learn from that and how can you help other people with that?” she said.

Now, Adams feels great and was showing no signs of Hepatitis C. Her energy is better, her jaundice cleared immediately and she is excited about the future.

Intermountain Healthcare transplant surgeon Dr. Diane Alonso and Laura Adams.

Psychologically, she believes she got a liver that was ready to go.

“Keeping it alive gives you a feeling of that it’s already revving to go,” she joked about her new liver. “It’s kind of like warming up your car. It’s like, OK, it’s gonna work out really well.”

Results from the trial should be available later this year.

KSL 5 TV Live

Health

Lehi Ronald McDonald room...

Karah Brackin

Get sneak peek inside Lehi Ronald McDonald Family Room

On Friday morning, KSL-TV got an exclusive look at the new Ronald McDonald Family Room at the Primary Children’s Hospital in Lehi.

4 days ago

Fewer than two in five people in the US have gotten the flu vaccine this season, according to CDC e...

Kiersten Nunez

Utah faces unusual flu season with third pediatric death

The latest update from Utah Department of Health shows a third child has succumbed to influenza during the current season. Health experts are raising concerns over the unusual patterns the state is seeing this year.

4 days ago

Chris and Aimee Tyler, speaking about their experience with Chris's pancreatic cancer diagnosis....

Emma Benson

‘Cancer can affect anybody’: Utah couple processes pancreatic cancer diagnosis

Pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. and often goes undetected until it's advanced. One Utah County man is fighting for more time with his loved ones.

5 days ago

Fewer than two in five people in the US have gotten the flu vaccine this season, according to CDC e...

Eliza Pace

New study shows alternating arm for vaccine doses may improve immunity

With two-dose vaccinations, getting one shot in each arm may improve immunity up to four-fold, a new study shows. 

6 days ago

A new program started by Intermountain Health will allow any police K-9 injured in the line of duty...

Alex Cabrero

New Life Flight program will fly police dogs injured in the line of duty

A new program by Intermountain Health will allow for any police K-9 injured in the line of duty to be flown by Life Flight to receive medical treatment.

7 days ago

Exercise particularly reduced risk of death for women, according to the data. (Stock photo, Getty I...

Madeline Holcombe, CNN

Women see more benefits to their health with exercise than men, study suggests

The benefits of exercise are great for everyone – but may be even better for women, according to a new study.

8 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Doctors Testing New Liver Transplant Transport System