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Less invasive liver transplant

New York, New York - June 6, 2010

A new procedure is offering new hope to liver transplant patients. Doctors say it is much less invasive and allows donors to recover in half the time.

When 13-year-old Aiden Ward needed a liver transplant, his father Michael didn't hesitate. "Desire was so strong to help my son that the worry was oh no what if they find something and I'm not able to donate," Michael Ward, Aiden's father.

Michael was a perfect match, but surgery would mean months of recovery, when he needed to care for his son. Dr. Ben Samstein of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, offered a new alternative."The entire operation is done in small ports just the size of the tip of my finger," Samstein said.

Instead of a large incision, the new technique is done laproscopically with five small incisions. Recovery time is typically cut in half -- patients are out of the hospital three days sooner--off drugs within a week, and feeling normal within two weeks.

The procedure has only been done five times in the U.S. and only between adult donors and pediatric patients, but it's been so successful, doctors are hoping to offer it as a better option. "It was far less painful and debilitating than I had expected," Michael Ward said.

Each year nearly two thousand people die waiting for a liver transplant. Doctors hope this new technique will encourage more live donors and significantly shorten the waiting list. "If half of all liver transplants performed in the United States were from a living donor, there would be no waiting list," Samstein said.

Aiden and Michael are both on the road to recovery. "I mean, I have more energy now," Aiden said.

They hope they'll inspire others to save lives.

Kathryn Brown - CBS News

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