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Steve Jobs Gets New Liver, Bringing Attention to Transplant System

Posted Aug 27 2009 11:37pm

Steve Jobs has had a liver transplant, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.  That report speculated that Jobs may have gotten the transplant because cancer had spread from his pancreas to his liver.  He had surgery to treat a neuroendocrine islet cell tumor in 2004.  If such tumors spread to the liver one option is a transplant, although this is controversial: Apparently, it’s not clear if transplants actually lengthen life.  Another possibility, according to  a New York Times report, is that the transplant is related to Jobs’ “digestive problems, or to some unknown condition, and not to a spreading of his cancer.”

Jobs didn’t get the transplant in his home state, California, rather he traveled to Tennessee.  According to another report in The Wall Street Journal, different states have different wait times.  By registering at multiple hospitals — a costly and time-consuming process — patients are more likely to get a liver.  More than 1,400 people died while waiting for a liver at the U.S. hospital last year.

Clearly, many fewer livers are available than people who need them.  Hopefully this news will make more people aware of the importance of organ donation.  A great first step is to visit OrganDonor.gov.  Talk to family members and friends as well about the need for organs.  A few years ago, a young distant relative of mine was left brain dead after a car accident I remember vividly that donating his organs was the only consolation family members found.  It’s a difficult thing to think about, but if you think about what it must be like to need an organ, or to be the parent of a child that needs one, hopefully that will encourage you to take the step.

Jobs’ prospects are good.  Patient survival rates (as well as other useful statistics on liver transplants) are available at the U.S. Scientific Registry of transplant recipients.

Patients who are waiting for a transplant, or have had one, can get health advice, information, and support at Transplant Experience and other patient support sites.

Updated 06-21-2009

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