Only 10 percent liver transplants on female patients: Doctors

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

NEW DELHI - Jordan’s Haneen Abushakra and Noida’s Simran Chadha have little in common, except the fact that they are females and underwent a liver transplant. As common as it may sound, the astonishing fact is that they are among a minority of girls who get such a surgery done.

Even as we talk about gender equality, doctors at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital here Wednesday pointed out that only 10 percent of the patients undergoing liver transplants are female, as families refuse to spend resources for girls.

“Most families don’t want to spend money on a liver transplant for girls, primarily because they are not earning members and do not contribute to the family’s income,” Vinay Kumaran, consultant surgical gastroenterology and director of the liver transplant department at the hospital, said at a press conference here Wednesday.

“Mostly they back off for a surgery for girls, while in the case of boys, most are ready,” he said.

The two surgeries, done on patients in critical condition, hence become a medical as well as social example.

Abushakra was 14 when she was diagnosed with auto-immune hepatitis, a rare disease in which the body starts making anti-bodies against its own liver cells, damaging the organ and eventually leading to its failure.

Even after repeated consultations from doctors in Germany, Egypt and Turkey, her father could not find a surgeon to undertake the liver transplant operation as her condition was critical.

“The answer from everywhere was that she was too sick to undergo a liver transplant. She had become so weak that she could barely speak above a whisper,” Abushakra’s father Abdel Rahman said with moist eyes.

A worried Rahman kept surfing the internet, trying to find a treatment for his daughter and found that it could be possible in India.

Abushakra, 21, was brought to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in late August and with a partial liver donation from her father, she underwent the transplant Sep 2. She is recovering now.

“Partial liver transplants are not as common in European countries as in India and other South Asian countries,” Kumaran said, adding “the donor’s liver grows back to normal size in 10 to 15 days, and even when a part of it is removed, it functions normally”.

Meanwhile, close to the Indian capital, nine-year-old Simran from Noida Aug 25 underwent a liver transplant at the hospital as jaundice brought her liver to a critical condition. Tests showed she had less than 10 percent chances of surviving a liver transplant.

As finances were a constraint for her family, the hospital subsidised her operation and with partial liver donation from her maternal uncle, Simran got the transplant.

“These two cases are examples for everyone, specially since most families don’t come forward for having a liver transplant for girls,” said Nishant Wadhwa, consultant incharge of Pediatric Gastroenterology department at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.

“Most of the times families are in doubt that what will be the future of the girl, will she be able to get married, will she be able to have children. But these are all misconceptions. Even after liver transplants, girls can have a normal life, have children and lead a normal family life,” he added.

“Whether it is a girl or a boy, a child should be seen equally,” Simran’s mother Nisha Chadha added.

Filed under: Hepatitis, Medicine

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