Cleveland Clinic conducts first laparoscopic living donor liver transplant

Posted at 5:55 AM, Oct 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-30 18:23:31-04

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Clinic just completed a unique liver transplant surgery, and they’re hoping it encourages more people to step forward to help save lives.

Living donor liver transplants have been around for years, but what’s unique about this surgery is that instead of cutting the donor open down the middle, this was the first time they’ve done the surgery laparoscopically — making a few tiny incisions in the abdomen to remove a piece of the liver.

The surgery was done by Dr. Choon Hyuck David Kwon, who said only about 5 % of liver donations come from living donors.

Dr. Kwon, the director of Laparoscopic Surgery at the Cleveland Clinic, said he hopes the minimally invasive surgery encourages more donors to consider making a liver donation.

“People want to help people, but are afraid of surgery, of the consequences,” Dr. Kwon said. “Now they can possibly step forward to help save other lives as well.”

The liver is the only organ in our bodies that can regenerate.

Dr. Kwon said it typically takes about two months for a healthy liver to grow back to its original size.

Now, using laparoscopic surgery to do the transplant means recovery time is even quicker.

“Because of that minimally invasive nature, the recovery of the patient becomes a lot faster, less pain, early return to normal life.”

The surgery was done in August, with Nikko Velazquez donating a piece his liver to his girlfriend’s father, Abraham Aviv.

The pair is now back in Florida, Nikko is fully recovered while Abraham said he is feeling excellent.

“Oh my God, I owe him my life,” Abraham said. “He is a life saver, he’s a great person.”

For Nikko, once he learned he was a match, the decision was an easy one.

“The opportunity to save someone’s life is there at your fingertips, all you gotta do is make the call and I guess a lot of people don’t realize that,” Nikko said.

And that’s not all — Nikko said once he is back up to full strength, he is looking to donate a kidney to someone in need at the Cleveland Clinic as well.

The average wait time for a liver from a deceased donor can be one to two years, which is often times too long for a person in need. Data shows roughly 3,000 people die or get too sick each year waiting for a transplant.