• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Technique makes liver transplant easier

November 3, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
A new surgical technique is making liver transplants easier.Torrey Brown, Sr. and Torrey Brown, Jr. share more than a name; they share a liver.

"I always see myself in the future being able to say, 'You know you have a piece of me in you," said Brown, Sr.

When his son was born with a liver that wasn't working, Torrey senior was a perfect match for a transplant. He was one of the first to be spared the pain of traditional surgery.

"Often times, the donors would come out of these operations looking worse than their recipients," explains Dr. Lynt Johnson from Georgetown University Hospital.

Transplant surgeon Dr. Johnson led the team in Torrey senior's liver removal. Two tiny incisions were made -- one for a laparoscope and one for an instrument that cuts tissue. Another three-inch incision allows the surgeon's hand inside the body to move the liver into place. The liver is then divided and removed by hand.

"It allows us to really be able to see some things that we weren't able to see in the same fashion," said Dr. Johnson.

The new procedure means a four-hour surgery, a smaller incision and it cuts hospital and recovery time in half.

Also, 90 percent of Torrey senior's liver will grow back in three months.

"Senior won't feel like he's got part of his liver missing, nor will he feel it as its growing back," said Dr. Johnson. "But the liver will re-grow. And Torrey [junior], as he grows, the liver will grow with him."

Torrey junior will need medication and blood work for the rest of his life.

The main risk of laparoscopic surgery is usually bleeding. Dr. Johnson says he reduces that risk by using his hand to compress the main blood vessels. The only other organ donated by a living donor is the kidney, which can also be removed laparoscopically.


- Get more L.A. breaking news, weather, traffic and sports
- Have a news tip? Send your tips, video, or pictures


Load Comments