Liver transplantation in South Korea
The first liver transplantation in South Korea took place in 1988, when a child patient successfully received the organ from a deceased donor. After that, the next milestone occurred 9 years later, when doctors at Asan Medical Center performed the first complete living donor liver transplantation. This latter step pushed the organ transplantation field to a new level, and worked as the base for further development in the country. Additionally, the creation of the Korea Network for Organ Sharing (KONOS) in 2000 brought an efficient prevention, distribution and management of organ donation in the country.
Why South Korea is a leader in liver transplantation?
From a modest beginning to our days, South Korea has become a leader in living donor liver transplantation. In 2014, local institutions reported over 1,200 liver transplantations surgeries. That number set South Korea as the nation with the most living donor liver transplantation per number of people.
Furthermore, the top ten medical institutions data shows a 97.6% success rate over the last 3 years. That percentage is higher than in the United States and other developed nations. In addition, the 1 and 3 years survival rate reached 90% and 94% in the period of 2011-2013 for patients without liver cancer. Meanwhile, it went to 86.3% and 92.6% for those suffering liver cancer.
These favorable numbers are, in part, thanks to the perfected supportive care after liver transplantation surgeries. A multidisciplinary approach taken by the medical institutions allows patients here to receive assistance from a wide range of specialist. Another advantage in South Korea are the protocols set in place to limit recurrences. For example, in the case of liver transplantation related to Hepatitis B, doctors here use a combination of HBV immunoglobulin injection and antiviral agent administration to reduce the probability of a relapse.
Liver cancer and liver transplantation
Liver cancer is one of the main reason people search for liver transplantation. In South Korea, the percentage of liver cancer related transplants is around 55% of the total cases. Therefore, local institutions have doubled the resources to improve the quality of the treatment. For that, they target to reduce the percentage of recurrence by including pre-liver transplantation treatment on progressive liver cancer to lower the clinical stage.
Other advances in the liver transplantation field include the modified right lobe graft and dual graft liver transplantation techniques. Both techniques have increased the success rate and reduce further complication for donor and recipient.
Traveling abroad for liver transplantation
The proportion of patients looking for a liver transplantation because of liver cancer is growing per year. To travel abroad for liver transplantation is becoming a common practice for people in countries without the medical expertise. In some other instances, people seek for more affordable choices than those at home. For both cases, South Korea is a solid and reliable opportunity.
Nowadays, South Korea receives patients from Middle East, the CIS Region and other locations. They all search for better treatment options and top quality surgeons. The work of accredited medical tourism facilitators grants them the opportunity to find the right medical institution. Also, allows them to communicate in their native language and go through the process in a more comfortable way. Moreover, a facilitator will help them arrange the legal requirements to comply with the local laws on organ transplants.
South Korea procures the integrity of donors and recipients for organ transplantations. Therefore, the patient should comply with the Act on Organ Transplantation. This law states that the donor should be at least first cousin or closer to the patient. The Korean Network of Organ Sharing (KONOS) should verify the validity of the documents. In some cases, KONOS accepts a third party organ donation. The party should prove the donation is without any monetary intention.
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