Liver Transplant History

Liver transplantation became a reality in 1963 when the first case was performed in Denver, Colorado, by the pioneer of liver transplantation, Thomas Starzl, M.D. Gradually, more hospitals offered this option to their patients, and currently, there are 115 active liver transplant programs nationwide.

The longest surviving recipient who received a deceased liver transplant in 1970 is doing well today, more than 30 years later. Each year, hundreds of pediatric patients are added to the waiting list for a liver transplant, yet the number of deceased donors does not increase to meet the demand. In the late 1980s, one program discovered a way to solve this problem.

A new era in transplantation began in 1989 when surgeons at the University of Chicago performed the first living donor liver transplant. The concept was developed on the premise that patients undergoing removal of liver tumors achieved full recovery, even when more than half of their native liver was removed. The remaining liver provided sufficient function for patients to maintain a normal quality of life. In addition, complications following surgery were about the same as those of deceased donor transplants.

Did You Know?

Children’s pediatric liver transplant team has transplanted more than 30 pediatric patients with a living donor liver. Living donation is a unique expertise we can offer to combat the ever-increasing donor shortage.