History of Liver Transplants

The first liver transplant operation was performed in March, 1963 in Denver, Colorado by Dr Tom Starzl. Throughout the 1960′s and 1970′s, liver transplantation was performed in only a handful of centres worldwide and the results were very disappointing.

In 1982 there was a big breakthrough with the advent of Cyclosporin, a powerful immunosuppressant drug which was able to suppress the body’s rejection of the new liver graft. Following the release of Cyclosporin there was a very marked improvement in success rates of liver transplantation and an enormous surge in the number of centres around the world performing this type of surgery. Further developments in immunosuppression include the introduction of Tacrolimus and Mycophenolate with additional drugs in the research and development phase.

It is anticipated that 45-50 adults and 2-4 children will require liver transplantation annually in Ireland although this may increase further as more forms of liver disease are added to the list of indications for liver transplantation. Currently the major influencing factor is the number of patients who have contracted Hepatitis C either from blood products or blood transfusions. It is estimated that 20 – 30% of these patients will require liver transplantation in the future.

Liver transplantation is usually performed for end-stage chronic liver disease when all other treatment options have failed.