Surgeons at the University of Tokyo Hospital on Wednesday began transplanting to an HIV-infected hemophiliac patient with advanced hepatitis C part of a liver donated by the patient’s brother.
The 41-year-old man was infected with HIV and hepatitis C by contaminated blood products he received during hemophilia treatment.
He will receive part of his 48-year-old brother’s liver in an operation that was expected to last until the early hours of this morning, the doctors said.
The operation by a team of surgeons led by professor Masatoshi Makuuchi is the first such transplant in Japan to a person with HIV. It is drawing keen attention in medical circles as an increasing number of hemophiliacs with both HIV and hepatitis are dying from liver damage, even though drug treatment can suppress the onset of AIDS.
Even if the operation is successful, medical experts say, postsurgical difficulties are likely to arise given the patient’s low level of resistance to disease.
HIV patients receiving transplants run a higher risk of infection because of the use of immune-suppressant drugs to help them accept the donated organ, while the drugs used to treat HIV carry the risk of blocking the regeneration of the liver, the experts say.
Hemophiliacs also run the risk of excessive bleeding during an operation.
According to University of Tokyo Hospital officials, the patient, who resides in western Japan, was found to have been infected with the HIV virus in the late 1980s as a result of his hemophilia treatment.
While the man has not developed AIDS, his liver infection from hepatitis C has worsened to the point where his doctors decided that only a transplant could save his life.
The surgical team has been fitted with protective goggles and double-layer gloves to protect them against infection.
Last year, two patients also suffering from multiple infections were scheduled to receive transplants at the university hospital but died before the operations could be performed.
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