First Living Related Donor Liver Transplant Performed at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi

Emirati brother donates a section of his liver to his younger sister

Surgeons at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi have performed the hospital’s first living related liver transplant, in which a UAE national donated a section of his healthy liver to his youngest sister. While this was the first living related liver transplant performed at CCAD, the multidisciplinary team was able to draw upon the expertise of Cleveland Clinic, a leader in developing and performing living donor liver transplants.

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The recipient, a 21-year-old UAE national patient suffering from liver failure, received the left lobe of her elder brother’s liver. Both patients recovered at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi following the surgery, and both have been discharged to their home, with ongoing aftercare and support from the hospital.

“We noticed there was a problem when my sister showed signs of extreme fatigue. After a series of tests, she was diagnosed with liver failure, which required her to have transplant surgery. We were scared for her because it is a serious, life-threatening illness, but the doctors were very reassuring. When they explained the possibility of performing a living organ transplant, we felt it was the right thing to do,” says the donor.

“I’m so grateful to everyone at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi and for the support of my family,” says the recipient. “The opportunity to have the transplant operation here made it possible for me to continue my studies before and after the treatment. The leadership of the UAE has achieved something remarkable by providing us with access to healthcare normally available in a few leading facilities around the world.”

A look at the challenging operation

Antonio Pinna, MD, Director of Hepatobiliary Surgery and Liver Transplantation in the Digestive Disease Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, led the surgical team. He explains the challenges of performing the operation.

“A living related liver transplant is a complex procedure because our multidisciplinary teams need to perform two surgeries at the same time, safely removing part of the donor’s liver and transplanting it into the recipient. Following the surgery, both patients were closely monitored in the ICU and moved into our post-transplant recovery program, where they continue to receive support,” he says.

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He adds, “A living related donor program allows us to plan for and schedule the life-saving surgery while the recipient is in optimal medical condition, which decreases the risks. This first successful living related donor liver transplant is another key milestone in our goal to develop a sustainable transplant program that will ultimately save countless lives in the UAE and the wider region.”

“This was the ultimate example of a Team of Teams; the support we received from Tom Mihaljevic and Rakesh Suri was phenomenal,” says Charles Miller, MD, Cleveland Clinic Enterprise Transplant Director. “The planning and execution of this procedure relied on international collaboration and expertise of multiple Cleveland Clinic Transplant Centers.”

Renee Bennett, Cleveland Clinic Transplant Enterprise Administrator adds: “The cooperation of the groups was remarkable. The planning that goes into this kind of procedure takes immense resources and commitment, it was a truly a one of a kind collaboration.”

Extending the range of treatments now available at CCAD

The addition of living related donor liver transplants to the range of treatments now available at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi provides another option for patients in the UAE who require similar procedures. Patients no longer need to travel abroad for treatment when seriously ill, ensuring better aftercare and improved quality of life.

Rakesh Suri, MD, CEO, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, explains: “One of the promises we made to the community when we launched Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi was that we would open the UAE’s first multi-organ transplant center. Following on from our first kidney transplant in April 2017, we have now performed multiple living and deceased donor kidney and liver transplants, as well as lung and heart transplants. The program continues to grow and evolve, in partnership with the health authorities and other leading hospitals.”

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“The availability of a living donor program creates significantly more options for patients throughout the Emirates who need a transplant operation,” he adds. “We are constantly working to expand the range of treatments available for patients based on the region’s specific healthcare needs.”

While this was the first living related liver transplant performed at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, the multidisciplinary team was able to draw upon the expertise of US-based partner Cleveland Clinic, a leader in developing and performing Living Donor Liver Transplants.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi completed its first living related donor kidney transplant in April 2017, its first full heart transplant in December 2017, its first deceased donor liver and lung transplants in February 2018, and its first double lung transplant in June 2018. The hospital has performed three deceased donor liver transplants in 2018 and is currently preparing for the next living related transplants.

The facility employs a highly skilled team of surgeons and caregivers who collectively have performed thousands of transplants throughout their careers.