Liver transplantation is no longer an "experimental" procedure but a therapeutic one, panelists at a consensus development conference held recently at the National Institutes of Health agreed. The group noted that more than 540 liver transplants have been done in four medical centers in the United States and Western Europe since 1963. Although liver transplants have been done elsewhere, too, the panelists based their conclusion on data from these four centers.
The findings from such groups "clearly demonstrate that liver transplantation offers an alternative therapeutic approach which may prolong life in some patients suffering from severe liver disease that has progressed beyond the reach of currently available treatment and consequently carries a poor prognosis," the panelists said.
However, there were questions about who should receive such transplants. For example, alcoholics were regarded as unlikely to meet the criteria for liver transplantation, although cirrhosis and alcohol-related hepatitis are the most common