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Vietnamese surgeons carry out intestine transplants from live donors

By Le Nga   November 1, 2020 | 07:52 pm PT
Vietnamese surgeons carry out intestine transplants from live donors
Doctors from Military Hospital 103 in Hanoi perform a small intestine transplant for a patient, October 2020. Photo courtesy of the hospital.
Vietnam has become only the 22nd country to successfully perform an intestinal transplant from a live donor, a highly complex technique.

Dr. Do Quyet, director of the Military Medical University, announced on Saturday that doctors at Hanoi's Military Hospital 103 carried out two bowel transplants using live donors together with their colleagues from Japan’s Tohoku University Hospital.

Globally, only around 1,000 such transplants have been done so far.

One patient is a 26-year-old male who had peritonitis and developed near-total colonic necrosis, causing doctors in the northern Lai Chau Province to almost completely remove his small intestine. He had only 20 cm left after the surgery while a normal human small intestine is around 6 m long.

He had been transferred to the 103 Military Hospital on September 29 with chronic (type 3) intestinal failure caused by severe short bowel syndrome (SBS).

He was treated and fed intravenously, but he developed a metabolic liver condition associated with dysfunctional bowel syndrome.

On October 27 nearly 100 doctors and other medical staff carried out the transplant, with the intestinal donor being his biological mother.

The second patient is a 42-year-old man who earlier had five abdominal surgeries for peritonitis due to intestinal perforation, including one to remove most of his small intestine in May 2007. Only around 80 cm remained.

In May this year he was treated at the hospital for irreversible bowel failure due to type 1 SBS and colonic fistula.

He had surgery a day after the first patient did. His brother was the donor.

Both donors are in stable condition while the recipients, whose survival indicators are stable, are being carefully monitored.

Quyet said the biggest difficulty in intestine transplantation is connecting arteries and veins to nourish the transplanted organ. There is a higher risk infection and organ rejection than in other transplants, and taking care of the two patients post-surgery would be a challenge, he said.

Military doctors and other experts had determined that a bowel transplant would be the only hope for the two patients.

Quyet said their intestines had completely lost their digestive function.

"If they do not have a bowel transplant, they face a high risk of complications related to vein nourishment such as infection, liver damage, wasting, and death at any time."

The transplant would restore the digestive function, and the patients could eat and drink normally, he said.

In Japan, around 80 percent of bowel transplant patients live for at least five years and 60 percent live for at least 10.

Deputy Minister of Health Tran Van Thuan congratulated the Military Medical University and the hospital for their achievement.

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