India’s first robotic liver surgery on donor saves kid

For the first time in India, a robot has been used successfully for liver transplant. Doctors at Medanta Medicity Hospital in Gurgaon have performed the robotic surgery to take out a portion of the liver of the donor to be transplanted in a four-year-old child suffering from liver cancer.

In good news for liver doners, robotic surgery, which makes the procedure more safe and minimises their discomfort, is now available in India.

The Liver Transplant Team at Medanta acheived a rare breakthrough by conducting India’s first and the world’s third robotic liver doner surgery in September-October 2011.

The Da-Vinci robot was used by the doctors on Rahmatullah, 36, who donated 20% of his liver to his nephew Ziad, who was suffering from a rare genetic disorder leading to cancer in his liver. According to doctors, it is the third such surgery in the world.

“Robotic surgery is usually performed for other operations like kidney, heart and gynaecological operations. But its use in this liver transplant not only increased the precision but encouraged the donor by reducing surgery-related troubles,” said A S Soin, chairman of the Medanta Liver Institute who led the team of surgeons.

36-year-old Rahmatullah, who underwent the path breaking surgery to donate 20 per cent of his liver to save his nephew, was discharged five days after the operation.

Four-year-old Ziad who became the first to be cured of his liver failure with a robotically removed liver has also also been discharged and is well.

The child, who lives in Muscat, the capital of Oman, with his parents, was brought to the hospital after being diagnosed with Tyrosinaemia, a genetic anomaly of metabolism associated with severe liver disease in infancy; wherein the liver is unable to digest proteins.

“Even when Ziad developed rickets at the age of two, which is a symptom of this disease, the doctors were not able to diagnose his condition,” said Neelam Mohan, director of pediatric gastroenterology.

“Tyrosinaemia led to liver cirrhosis and liver cancer in this little boy. Urgent liver transplant was the only respite. Unfortunately his parents could not donate as their blood group did not match with their son’s. Ziad’s uncle then voluteered to donate a portion of his liver,” Dr Neelam Mohan, senior liver physician and director of the paediatric hepatology and tranplant facility at Medanta said.

His parents, pharmacist Mohd. Zakir Hussain and Mehe Zabin – originally from Karnataka, could not afford the surgery in Muscat and decided to come to India. An amount of about Rs15 lakh was raised through charity. By then, Ziad had developed cancer in his liver and the whole liver needed to be removed. But the blood group of Ziad’s parents differed from his, and so his uncle Rahmatullah came forward.

“The donor in a liver transplant undergoes the surgery only for saving some one’s life. A robotic surgery encouraged his uncle for the donation as it has greater precision and a mere three-to-four-inch scar,” said Soin.

The cost of a robotic surgery for the donor is nearly Rs 75,000 to 80,000 more than a normal donor surgery. Doctors, however, say the cost will come down with time as more robotic surgeries are conducted.

“This is a godsend for liver donors who are otherwise healthy people undergoing major surgery to save their loved ones. This operation marks the beginning of new era in liver transplant. With this technology at our disposal, liver transplant surgery can now be conducted with minimal discomfort to the patient and less fatigue to the surgeons,” Dr A S Soin, chief liver transplant surgeon and chairman, Medanta Liver Institute said.

And for Ziad, it’s nothing less than a blessing. “It is another life for Ziad,” a relieved Mehe Zabin said.

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