A surgical team from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis recently performed the first robotic liver transplant in the U.S. The successful transplant, accomplished in May at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, extends to liver transplants the advantages of minimally invasive robotic surgery: a smaller incision resulting in less pain and faster recoveries, plus the precision needed to perform one of the most challenging abdominal procedures.
The patient, a man in his 60s who needed a transplant because of liver cancer and cirrhosis caused by hepatitis C virus, is doing well and has resumed normal, daily activities. Typically, liver transplant recipients require at least six weeks before they can walk without any discomfort. The patient was not only walking easily one month after surgery but also cleared to resume golfing and swimming.
“The transplant was a success: The operation went smoothly, the new liver started working right away, and the patient recovered without any surgical complications,” said transplant surgeon Adeel Khan, MD, the leader of the team that conducted the trailblazing surgery. Khan is an associate professor of surgery at the School of Medicine. “Liver transplantation is one of the most complex abdominal operations and heavily relies on a specialized team for good outcomes. Here at Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital, we are very fortunate to have the support needed to develop a world-class robotic-transplant team that allows us to safely perform complex operations. This team is a big part of our success.”
The robotic liver transplant took just over eight hours — on the high end but within the expected time frame for traditional open liver transplants, which usually take six to eight hours. Future robotic liver transplants likely will be completed faster as the OR team gains experience and gets more used to the subtleties of the new surgical technique, Khan said.