Cleveland Clinic’s Weston Hospital Performs First Living Donor Liver Transplant

Cleveland Clinic’s Weston Hospital has performed its first living donor liver transplant, in which a daughter donated a portion of her liver to her mother who had been battling complicated liver disease for several years.   

The donor and recipient surgeries were performed in Weston by a team of surgeons from Cleveland Clinic Weston and Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, which has one of the nation’s largest living donor liver transplant programs. 

On May 10, 2021, Cristiano Quintini, M.D., director of Liver Transplantation at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, and Weston Hospital transplant surgeons Samer Ebaid, M.D., Ph.D., and Phoenix Vuong, M.D., removed 60 percent of the right lobe of 38 year-old Heidy Lima’s liver through an abdominal incision. 

In an operating room nearby, Koji Hashimoto, M.D., Ph.D., director of Living Donor Liver Transplantation at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, Antonio Pinna, MD, director of Cleveland Clinic Weston’s Abdominal Transplant Center, and Weston transplant surgeon Sidharth Sharma, MD, successfully transplanted the donated portion of Lima’s liver to her mother, 60-year old Iris Blanco.   

“The collaboration between our transplant team in Weston and our colleagues in Ohio has been exceptional, allowing us to take this step forward and meet a critical need for living donor liver transplant services in South Florida, “said Conor Delaney, M.D., Ph.D., CEO and President of Cleveland Clinic’s Florida region. “As an integrate healthcare delivery system, we continue to expand our ability to provide multidisciplinary, complex care and improve the quality of life for our patients and their families.” 

Dr. Pinna added, “After months of preparation and extensive evaluation of patients, we are pleased that our transplant program has advanced to the next level.” 

Cleveland Clinic’s Weston Hospital is currently the only medical facility in Florida performing living donor liver transplants. The highly specialized procedure requires a great deal of technical expertise due to anatomical variations in the liver. No living donor liver transplants have been performed in Florida since 2012. 

Living-donor transplant helps save the lives of people with end-stage liver disease and increases the number of livers for patients on the transplant waiting list.  Because they are receiving a portion of a healthy donor’s liver, recipients typically have improved long-term outcomes and quicker recovery times. 

“Living liver donation is the ultimate gift of life,” Dr. Pinna said. “It is both gratifying and humbling to play a role in a daughter donating a piece of her liver to her very ill mother with liver failure.” 

Blanco said her daughter did not want to see her suffering and said she had no life prior to the transplant. Lima said she made the decision to donate her liver because it was difficult watching her mother deteriorate as her condition worsened.  

About 5% of people who undergo a liver transplant receive the organ from a living donor, who has made the altruistic decision to give up a portion of their liver to save someone else’s life. The liver is the only organ that can regenerate, which makes it possible for a living person to donate a portion of their liver. It takes approximately six to eight weeks for the healthy donor’s liver to grow back to its original size.

In addition to liver transplants, Cleveland Clinic’s Weston Hospital also performs heart and kidney transplants. In 2020, the hospital performed 215 solid organ transplants, including 127 kidney, 47 heart and 41 liver transplants. 

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