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Date: 20 September 2017

Time: 03:15

5,001st liver transplant recipient, Raymond  Chapman

Liver transplant programme reaches major milestone

Story posted/last updated: 23 August 2017

A major milestone has been achieved in Birmingham this summer with the 5,000th and 5,001st liver transplants having been carried out on the same day by the city’s liver transplant units.

The 5,000 liver transplants have predominantly been carried out by the specialist team at University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB), with the 5,000th transplant performed at Birmingham Children’s Hospital and 5,001st at UHB. On reaching this milestone, the teams from both hospitals performed four liver transplants in 48 hours.

Diagnosed aged 14 with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC), a chronic liver disease in which the bile ducts progressively decrease in size due to inflammation and scarring, Raymond Chapman - now 28 - has struggled with ill health for much of his life. At the point where he went on the transplant waiting list at age 22, Raymond had deteriorated to the point where he was bed bound and received a new liver a year later.

Raymond was well for a time after the operation, but unfortunately there were complications and he became very unwell in the January of 2016. Six months after going on the waiting list again in 2017, Raymond received news that a liver had been found and travelled from his home town of High Wycombe for the operation on 18 July 2017. On being the recipient of the 5,001st liver transplant for the Birmingham Liver Units, Raymond said: “That’s a real achievement that so many people have had the opportunity to have a liver transplant. I’ve missed out on quite a lot through feeling unwell, so I feel really grateful to have a chance to hopefully have a better quality of life.”

The very first transplant in Birmingham was carried out at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on 19 January 1982 by pioneering former surgeon Professor Paul McMaster and team. Having previously worked in Cambridge, Paul came to Queen Elizabeth to work with liver specialist Professor Elwyn Elias to develop services at the Trust.

It was a much riskier procedure then than it is today, and sadly the very first liver transplant patient died soon after the operation. Despite the risk, the next three transplant patients survived between 20 and 28 years and within ten years, the unit had become the most active in Europe. By 1986, the unit had been recognised as a national centre and was receiving specific funding. 

Survival rates have now improved significantly with a one-year survival rate of 94 percent, and the number of liver transplants that now take place has also grown from just three in that first year of1982 to more than four–five a week now.

Mr John Isaac, Clinical Lead for liver surgery at UHB, said: “The success of liver transplantation relies on a number of factors. Organ donation is essential for transplantation to take place, and this is why I would like to take the opportunity to thank organ donors and their families. Without the gift of donation, none of this would have been possible.

“In addition, organ transplantation is a complex field, and the efforts of the multidisciplinary teams involved have enabled transplantation to take place, contributing to this success.”

The efforts of the teams that enable transplantation to take place as well - as the families who have enabled organs to be donated - will be recognised during Organ Donation Week. During the week, which takes place from 4 – 10 September, the Renal, Cardiothoracic and Liver teams will be available to chat to about organ donation at a booth in the main foyer at QEHB on the following days:

  • Monday 4 September – Renal team
  • Wednesday 6 September - Cardiothoracic team
  • Thursday 7 September – Liver team

The booth will be manned from 08:00 – 16:00 on each of the days.

September will also mark thirty years since the Centre for Liver Research was established at the University of Birmingham, and a scientific conference will be held in Birmingham on 5 and 6 September 2017 to celebrate the clinical and academic achievements of the centre and liver units. Full details can be found on the conference website via the link below.

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