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For a liver, patients pay an arm and a leg

Special Correspondent
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When a 38-year-old man received his liver through a transplant at MIOT Hospitals on Tuesday, it was likely he was creating history of sorts.

From the hospital’s point of view, he was their first patient to undergo a liver transplant. But the nub of the matter was this: arguably, he paid the least amount (in a corporate set-up) for his procedure – Rs. 15 lakh.

 A theatre-owner from Erode, the patient was referred to MIOT for surgery after fatty liver disease, spurred by diabetes and supplemented by alcohol, led to liver failure. He received a cadaveric liver from a brain-dead donor in Tiruchi last month. Now, his doctors say, he is recovering admirably.  Though he had the resources to fund his operation, he is grateful that he got the price he did, compared to the prevailing rate at corporate hospitals. Another five or 10 lakhs might have been tough, he concedes.

“Infection in the post-operative period is the most important cause of failure of transplants,” explains Paari Vijayraghavan, liver transplant surgeon at MIOT. High levels of infection-control are necessary at this period, as are expensive nutrition/drug supplements. A multi-disciplinary team is also vital, apart from state-of-the-art infrastructure and equipment, to make transplants successful, he adds.

 “Undoubtedly transplants are expensive. And that puts them out of reach for most people in this country,” says George Chandy, director, MIOT Institute of Gastrointestinal and Liver Diseases. Also, most patients are really sick by the time the decision is made to provide a liver (90 per cent liver function is lost) and they have to be maintained carefully.  

Prithvi Mohandas, joint managing director, MIOT, says, “We are able to offer a liver transplant at this price, because our doctors don’t take a consultation fee – they are paid salaries. This brings down the costs substantially. We are planning to bring down the cost of surgery further by Rs. 5 lakh.”  

“The best thing, then, is to avoid transplantation. It is with this aim that MIOT is starting its liver and pancreas clinic. Pick up diseases early and prevent organ failure,” Dr. Chandy explains.

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