In our country, at present there are nearly 1300 to 1500 liver transplants being performed every year which is far less than what is required.
“Majority of the liver related ailments can be prevented by lifestyle modifications, while only 10 per cent of these require treatment. Regular exercise, avoiding alcohol consumption and a healthy diet intake can help prevent liver diseases. The need of liver transplant arises in case of cirrhosis of liver, hepato-cellular carcinoma, acute liver damage and metabolic disease, says Dr Chandan Kumar, senior consultant hepatologist and transplant physician, Kauvery Hospital.
A majority of living donor transplants has helped to ease the treatment processes. The main reason being, there has been a large increase in the number of centres performing transplants and the availability of more trained professionals, say medicos.
Tamil Nadu alone now has 33 centres for liver transplant spread across the state. Ninety per cent of the transplants being done now are living donor transplants. In live donor transplant, a part of liver is removed from a healthy voluntary donor after he is deemed fit and a portion of liver is left back which has a high capacity to grow back and regenerate within 3-4 weeks. In comparison, cadaver transplants may utilise the whole liver for a single patient or may even divide it between an adult and child, depending on the need.
Cadaveric liver transplants first started in Tamil Nadu, which was a big boon to the medical fraternity. Data suggests that most of the cadaveric liver transplants take place in the south Indian states. Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh are the major states which have perform deceased donor liver transplantation. Cadaveric transplants in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have been on the rise in recent times.
“Lack of awareness, proper guidance, treatment facilities have led to such a high burden of liver disease. The government of India along with many hospitals is now trying to create awareness through mass media so that some action may be taken before a point is reached where from liver damage becomes irreversible,” says Dr Joy Varghese, director of Hepatology and transplant Hepatology, Gleneagles Global Health City.
In India, the major cause of liver disease is alcohol intake and fatty liver disease which is attributed to an unhealthy life style.
“Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C are the other causes of liver disease but these diseases have good treatment options especially if detected early. Mass screening programmes and public awareness campaigns has led to earlier detection of these diseases and decrease in the disease burden. Also there is vaccination available for hepatitis B which has now been made compulsory for all after birth,” added Dr Joy Varghese.
Centres performing liver transplantation routinely also encourage people from foreign countries like Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Middle East nations, Bhutan, Bangladesh, etc to avail services in India. Lack of proper facilities, expertise and infrastructure in their homeland lures them to our country.
When compared to the western countries, the expenditure in our health system is more affordable. Hence, there has been a substantial increase in Medical Tourism related to liver transplantation and this has provided numerous job opportunities to both medical and non-medical personnel alike.