Edmonton man first to receive ‘warm liver’ transplant

Since 2010, Wilfred Siu, has battled liver cancer, enduring multiple treatments and surgeries. For a year he waited for a new liver. Now he's got one.

Livers kept at body temperature inside a metra, one of two in North America

"I am particularly excited about this technology which could save lives by enabling us to perform more transplants more safely," said Dr. James Shapiro, director of liver transplant programs at Alberta Health Services.

Wilfred Siu has battled liver cancer since 2010, enduring multiple treatments and surgeries.

He waited a year for a new liver.

Turns out the wait was worth it.

Siu’s new liver was handled differently than thousands of others - it was kept warm using a new technology.

The oven that kept Siu’s new liver warm is called a metra. It can keep blood flowing through the organ up to 24 hours before surgery. The metra is preferable to the more traditional method of preserving healthy organs prior to surgery, an icebox, which can only keep organs viable for half that amount of time - eight to 10 hours.

“Now, once the organ is removed from the donor, tubes are connected to the main blood vessels and the liver is maintained as if it is still in the body, supplied with oxygen, nutrients and kept at body temperature,” said liver transplant surgeon Dr. James Shapiro, director of the clinical islet and living donor liver transplant programs at Alberta Health Services.

Perhaps even more astounding is that the liver continues to fully function and produce bile while it’s kept inside the metra.

For patients, the use of metra and warm livers is expected to lead to smoother transplants. The technology also allows surgeons to repair livers, if necessary, before they are transplanted into a body.

“I was surprised when I finally got the call that an organ was available for me,” said Siu, 70.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I am happy that this technology is in Edmonton and it was available for my transplant.”

Last year, 77 liver transplants were performed at the University Alberta Hospital.

Toronto has the only other metra device in North America.


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