n South African Medical Journal - Paediatric liver transplantation in Johannesburg : initial 29 cases and prospects for the future

Volume 102, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



The Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre paediatric liver transplant programme is the second such unit in sub-Saharan Africa. Initiated in November 2005, it forms part of the centre's solid organ transplant unit, comprising kidney, liver and simultaneous kidney-pancreas arms. Initially established in the private sector, we recently received government approval to expand our programme into the provincial sector and have performed transplants on several provincial-sector patients. Current challenges relate to the lack of appropriately trained paediatric sub-specialists, specifically critical care practitioners and hepatologists.

Subsequent to institutional approval, a retrospective chart analysis of all paediatric liver transplants performed at our facility to date was conducted.
Defining children as those under 18 years of age, 29 patients have received a cadaveric liver transplant since 2005, using 16 whole livers, 10 reduced-size grafts, and 3 split segments; 13 were transplanted with biliary atresia, 3 hyperoxalurea, 3 autosomal recessive polycystic disease, 2 alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, and 2 idiopathic, with the remainder for a wide spectrum of other pathologies. Seven patients received combined liver-kidney transplants. There were 3 in-hospital mortalities. The remaining 26 patients are all long-term survivors. We describe 7 acute surgical morbidities in 6 patients, and 8 long-term surgical morbidities. One patient was subsequently re-transplanted in Cape Town.
Despite a shortage of organs, we have overcome a steep learning curve, with results comparable with other early series. The current threat to the continued viability of our unit is the lack of appropriately trained paediatric hepatologists and intensivists.

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