Clad in a striped T-shirt and trousers, 49-year-old Munna Lal looked prepared on Thursday for a few questions on the liver transplantation he underwent on July 2 at Kovai Medical Center and Hospital in the city. His eyes lit up when two reporters struck a conversation with him in Hindi, after a press briefing by the hospital on the transplantation.
“Mujhe ghar jhaakhe araam karna hai” (I want to go back home in New Delhi and take rest), he said. It had been a torrid time for this technician in a public sector oil firm since January, when jaundice surfaced to indicate an irreversible disease in his liver. Hepatologist at KMCH A. Olith Selvan said most liver diseases did not show symptoms till they turned worseDiseases
And that was why Munna Lal’s liver had not caused him any problem till January this year, though the liver had been suffering from a cryptogenic problem, wherein the cause is not known even after doctors find that there is a disease in the organ.
“The condition worsens quickly and reaches a stage where a fresh liver is the only solution,” said liver transplant surgeon Magnus Jayaraj Mansard. “As much as 10 per cent of liver disease cases are crytogenic.
The symptoms, such as jaundice, show up only after 70 per cent to 80 per cent of the liver is affected by the disease,” he explained at the press briefing. Hepatitis B and C viruses, excessive alcohol consumption and fatty liver disease were the other causes of liver failure, the hepatologist and the surgeon said. Consumption of alternative medicines containing heavy metals could also cause liver disease, the hepatologist said.
“I had swelling in my feet,” said Munna Lal. “He had abdominal and feet oedema (fluid collection in the abdomen and feet). This is another symptom that surface late,” Dr. Olith Selvan said.
Munna Lal got a new liver that was harvested from a brain dead patient in Tiruchi. It took three-and-a-half hours to bring it to Coimbatore, after being allocated under the State Government’s authorised and centralised system of allocating organs harvested from brain dead persons.
“Six hours is the ideal time, between harvest and transplantation,” Dr. Mansard said and added that it could even up to 24 hours.
While harvesting the entire liver from a brain dead person was one option, the other was taking a portion of the liver of a live, related donor. Being a regenerative organ, the liver would grow to its full size in both the donor and the recipient.
The success rate of liver transplantation surgeries was as much as 90 per cent to 95 per cent, Chairman of KMCH Nalla G. Palanisami said. Claiming that the liver transplantation done at his hospital was the first done outside Chennai, he said a separate liver transplantation wing was being created in the hospital.
On the huge cost that put liver transplantation out of the common man’s reach, he said it was because only a few centres and skilled surgeons performed this, as also the cost of hospital stay and immuno-suppressants (drugs that the liver recipient takes to bring down immunity to enable his system to accept the transplant).