The liver plays a critical role in digestion, immunity, metabolism and nutrient storage. It is also the body’s ‘chemical factory’, producing important proteins and blood cells while breaking down toxins.
Another amazing function of the liver is that it can restore itself when damaged. However, serious diseases can irreversibly destroy liver tissue and cause liver failure. Common causes of liver failure include hepatitis B, cirrhosis, cancer and autoimmune disease. When the liver fails, it can result in a range of serious conditions like jaundice, internal bleeding, muscle wasting and a build-up of toxins in the body. A liver transplant can help patients suffering from these conditions, regain their health and lead productive and fulfilling lives.
With new surgical techniques and effective medications, the success rate of liver transplantation is quite high. About 90% of liver transplant recipients continue to do well one year after transplantation.
A liver transplant can take place in two ways, where the donated liver can come from either a deceased or living donor.
Transplanting only a part of the liver is possible because of the liver’s unique ability to regenerate itself within a few weeks. When surgeons remove a piece of the donor's liver, the part that remains grows back quickly to its original size.
In adult to child liver transplant, a smaller part of the liver (the left lobe) is typically used. In adult to adult liver transplant, the larger right lobe of the liver from the living donor is used.
In Singapore, living donor liver donations can be done between relatives (e.g., spouses, siblings, parents, uncles, aunties, cousins). In deceased donor liver donation, the organ is retrieved from deceased donors under Human Organ Transplant Act (HOTA).
To date, NUCOT has performed more than 400 successful adult and paediatric living and deceased donor liver transplantations. We continue to provide post-transplant care and medical follow-ups at our Specialist Outpatient Clinic. On average, we perform about 70% of the total number of liver transplants (both living and deceased donor liver transplants) in Singapore annually.
In 2019, NUCOT performed 71% of the total liver transplants in Singapore (both living and deceased donor liver transplants).1
NUCOT is also a national referral centre for Singapore's deceased liver donations and transplants. In 2019, we performed 68% of the total number of deceased donor liver transplants in Singapore.1
NUH started our first liver transplant in 1990, and since then, our post-transplant outcomes have been recognised internationally. Our clinical outcomes are better than or comparable with international benchmarks. Our post-transplant patient survival and graft survival rates are illustrated in the tables below:
NUCOT brings together a comprehensive multidisciplinary suite of medical specialty services required throughout our patients’ transplantation journeys.
The services available include pre-transplant medical assessments, surgical and micro-surgical specialised services, post-transplant intensive care and recovery, outpatient check-ups and lifetime medicine reviews. Our team approach ensures that transplant patients are provided one-stop with comprehensive, dedicated and individualised care within an institution.
We are well-equipped with state-of-the-art interventional radiology and endoscopy services – thereby improving graft and patient survival. This is the key to the success of liver transplantation and in managing possible ensuing complications.
Our transplant coordinators and other allied health professionals (such as medical social workers, transplant pharmacists and dietitians) work together to provide the required support and education to our patients and their caregivers.
1Based on 2019 annual report rom the Ministry of Health, National Organ Transplant Unit.
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