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'Warm' transplants save lives

3 August 2018

A new $200,000 machine that maintains donated livers at body temperature, instead of in a cold solution on ice, is expected to help increase the number of life-saving liver transplants by 20 per cent at the Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH).

Professor Jonathan Fawcett, Director Queensland Liver Transplant Unit and Surgeon, said the machine extended the surgery window and kept the donated organ healthy by pumping it full of blood and nutrients.

"For organ transplants to be successful—every hour, every minute, counts," he said.

"With storage on ice 12 hours is our absolute cut-off, this new device extends it to 24 hours.

"That doubles the time we have to transport the organ from around Queensland and get the patient ready."

Prof Fawcett said the OrganOx Metra© device also told doctors if the livers were functioning properly.

"It is absolutely devastating for everyone when we have to cancel a transplant because time or other factors mean we can’t guarantee the liver is functioning properly," he said.

"This device can detect the organ’s demand for blood, adjusts the power of its pump in response, and reports on how it is functioning.

"This device will help boost the supply of livers available for transplant.

"This is revolutionary for patients, staff and the generous donors who have given a gift."

Australia’s first 'warm' liver recipient, 54-year-old Andrew Wallis who was diagnosed with liver disease earlier this year, was thankful to be alive after receiving a donated liver.

"I will always and forever be thankful to the donor and their family, and to the doctors and nurses who saved my life," he said.

This DonateLife Week, Andrew encouraged others to join the Organ Donor Register.

"I was in intensive care and my wife my three children and I thought I was going to die.

"But I’m alive now, so I ask everyone to take a deep breath and consider how you could change a whole family’s life with one decision."

The device was funded through the New Technology Funding and Evaluation Program (NTFEP), which is an annual investment of $5 million by Queensland Health to introduce and evaluate innovative healthcare technologies new to the Queensland public health system.

Last updated 8 August 2018
Last reviewed 8 August 2018

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