The popular medical drama “Hospital Playlist” depicted many cases of living donor liver transplants, including a story of a father who lost seven kilograms in two weeks to be fit to donate his liver to his daughter.
In Korea, about 20 people per 1 million are living liver donors, is the highest in the world. However, Korea and other countries have not produced any study on the long-term survival rate of live liver donors.
To address the issue, Professor Suh Kyung-suk’s liver transplantation team at Seoul National University Hospital conducted a follow-up study on 10,116 live liver donors from 2000 to 2015.
The team used data from the SNU College of Medicine’s Preventive Medicine Department and the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Korean Network Organ Sharing (KONOS).
The researchers classified the causes of death of liver donors and compared the survival rate of liver donors with that of the general population to evaluate the safety of liver transplantation.
Among 10,116 liver donors, 53 deaths (0.52 percent) occurred after donation. The most common cause of death was suicide (19 deaths), followed by cancer (nine), traffic accident (seven), liver disease (five), cerebrovascular disease (three), heart disease (one), and others (nine).
The researchers also found that the 10-year cumulative mortality of all live liver donors remained low at 0.9 percent. However, 19 suicide deaths among the liver donors signaled that liver donors need continued health monitoring and psychological support, the researchers noted.
Additionally, the research team compared the long-term survival rate of liver donors with that of the general population. To make the comparison accurate, the liver donor group’s sex and age ratios were matched to those of the general population, randomly selected from the Korean National Health Insurance System.
The findings showed that the 10-year cumulative mortality of the matched live liver donors was 0.5 percent, much lower than 0.9 percent of the general population group. This showed that liver transplantation was safe.
Professor Yi Nam-joon of the SNUH’s Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Surgery Department said there was no large-scale study on the long-term survival of Korean liver donors despite over 11,000 living donor liver transplantations.
“After surgery, physicians need to observe liver donors for the long term and continue providing mental health support,” she said.
The study has been published in the latest issue of Annals of Surgery.
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