Siu’s new liver was handled differently than thousands of others – it was kept warm using a new technology. Wilfred Siu has battled liver cancer since 2010, enduring multiple treatments and surgeries.
The oven that kept Siu’s new liver warm is called a metra. It can keep blood flowing through the organ up to 24 hours before surgery. The metra is preferable to the more traditional method of preserving healthy organs prior to surgery, an icebox, which can only keep organs viable for half that amount of time – eight to 10 hours.
“Now, once the organ is removed from the donor, tubes are connected to the main blood vessels and the liver is maintained as if it is still in the body, supplied with oxygen, nutrients and kept at body temperature,” said liver transplant surgeon Dr. James Shapiro, director of the clinical islet and living donor liver transplant programs at Alberta Health Services.
Perhaps even more astounding is that the liver continues to fully function and produce bile while it’s kept inside the metra.
For patients, the use of metra and warm livers is expected to lead to smoother transplants. The technology also allows surgeons to repair livers, if necessary, before they are transplanted into a body.