Want Some New Guts? It Can Be Done.


Ever wish you could trade your intestines in for another set? That’s what some  Crohn’s patients have done, more or less — saying goodbye to their own guts and getting a new-to-you set in return.

The American College of Gastroenterology just wrapped up its annual scientific meeting in Hawaii (our invitation must have gone to the wrong address). The annual meeting is where many of our doctors go to learn the latest gastroenterology science and/or learn to stand-up paddle board.

Among the papers presented beneath the palms and azure blue sky was one titled “Visceral Transplantation is Safe And Life-Saving in End-Stage Crohn’s Disease”, by Dr. Guilherme Costa.

Visceral transplantation means new guts: patients had their intestines removed and replaced with a donor’s, and sometimes got a new liver as well. Of the patients, 45 got new intestines only; 12 got a new liver, too. Getting the liver upgrade made for better results, it turns out.

Before you think, ‘Wow, that would solve all my problems!’, keep in mind the study only covers 57 patients in the last 25 years. Those patients were considered ‘end-stage’, who failed TPN (intravenous feeding) and basically had nothing left to lose.

Those who received the transplants had survival rates of “90% at 1 year, 56% at 5 years, and 43% at 10 years” — which is decent, although a few required another round of transplants. On the other hand, recipients were able to return to their normal diet.

Visceral transplant is not for everyone. While clearly ‘life-saving’ and life-extending, it has additional consequences above and beyond the disease itself. This may be reduced in the near future, as scientists learn to make new organs from patients own tissue.

But even better would be advances in the treatment of IBD that make transplant unnecessary.

On a related note: if you’re not an organ donor, consider becoming one. Probably nobody would want our guts, but there are other bits that could save a person’s life. Visceral transplant would not be possible if there were not willing organ donors in the first place.

(Story via PracticeUpdate.)



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