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Liver unit pleads for more donors

East And Bays Courier | Friday, 10 August 2007

New Zealand's Liver Transplant Unit may have reached a milestone when its 300th transplant was performed last month but it is hoping to add to the number by encouraging more people to become donors.

The July 16 transplant comes less than nine and half years after the unit, based at Auckland City Hospital, began operations in 1988.

Liver Transplant Service clinical director Stephen Munn says much has depended on the generosity of families that have agreed to donate after the death of a loved one.

"If it wasn't for them there would not have been any liver transplants done at all.

"The unit has also depended - to some extent ? on the courage of living donors to provide segments of liver for transplant recipients."

The average number of liver transplants is about 32 per year, which is substantially higher than the 22 initially proposed before the unit began.

Dr Munn says they have the ability to perform even more operations but are limited by the number of organs available.

"Currently we have 27 patients waiting, including seven children.

"The waiting times are increasing every year, and longer waiting times translates into an increasing number of deaths on the wait list.

"We believe the real need for liver transplants may be closer to 50 per year ? but we can only achieve that if more people become liver donors," he says.

Dr Munn says the transplants have been performed on 287 patients.

"This denotes a re-transplant rate of around 4.5 percent, which is low by international standards.

"And we're extremely pleased with the results of the operations - we have one and three year patient survival rates of 96 percent and 91 percent respectively."

Dr Munn says the support of the Lions Club of New Zealand has been invaluable in helping the unit with setup costs, training, the establishment of the Lions Transplant House and a research fund.

Courtesy of STUFF www.stuff.co.nz

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