Surgeons at The University of Arizona Department of Surgery performed Arizona’s first intestine (bowel) transplant April 30 in a successful nine-hour procedure at University Medical Center.
The procedure also was the first intestine transplant using a living donor in the entire Southwest. The patient, Leslie Richter, a 44-year-old woman from Rio Rico, is recuperating at the hospital.
This feat comes five months after UA surgeons at University Medical Center performed a record 100th abdominal transplant of 2008.
Richter became ill last year when she developed a potentially fatal condition that twisted her intestine, completely blocking the blood flow and destroying the organ. Except for five inches, almost all of her intestine had to be surgically removed.
“We are thrilled to bring this important life-saving procedure to our area,” said John Renz, a UA professor of surgery and vice chief of Abdominal Transplantation.
“A strong transplant program ensures that patients in the Southwest in need of a transplant receive world-class care. The commitment to saving lives through donation and transplantation is unparalleled and we are proud to be able to help patients like Mrs. Richter,” said Renz, a member of the team that performed the first surgery.
According to the national Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, 55 intestine-only transplants were performed in the United States last year, and 234 people in the United States currently are waiting for an intestine-only transplant.
“Mrs. Richter underwent this life-saving bowel transplant before she could develop liver failure ? in which case she would have required a combined intestine and liver transplant,” said Rainer Gruessner, the intestine transplant surgical team led.
An intestine transplant replaces a patient’s surgically removed or diseased small intestine with one from either a living or deceased donor. Such transplants are life-saving, yet rare; they are available at only a handful of U.S. medical centers.
Studies of living donor kidney transplants have shown that living donor organs seem to last twice as long as deceased donor organs.
Another key member of the team is Khalid Khan, a UA associate professor of surgery and pediatrics and a nationally renowned gastroenterologist specializing in liver and intestine transplantation.
“Intestine transplants have gone from a procedure many considered improbable in the 1990s to one today that offers patients greatly improved chances of long-term survival and a better quality of life,” said Dr. Khan. “Having the transplant means that Mrs. Richter will be able to eventually eat food normally again. The transplant should give her her life back.”
“We now have the infrastructure in place at UMC to offer highly complex, life-saving organ transplants, such as intestine transplants,” said Dr. Gruessner.
“UMC offers the most comprehensive transplant program in the state. We regularly perform kidney, pancreas, liver, lung and heart transplants, including living donor transplants, and soon will be offering islet cell transplants.”
Source: University of Arizona, USA