Apple Inc. chief executive Steve Jobs, who has survived a bout of pancreatic cancer, has had a liver transplant, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Here are some facts about liver transplants:
- The liver is an essential organ that helps process carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, and stores vitamins. It processes nutrients from food in the intestines, secretes bile to help digest fats, and breaks down toxic substances such as drugs and alcohol.
- People cannot survive without livers. A pancreas can be replaced with daily insulin, and dialysis can replace kidneys. However, even a small piece of liver can regenerate and grow.
- 6,649 liver transplants were performed in the United States in 2006, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing or UNOS. All but 4 percent were from deceased donors.
- 70 percent of liver transplant patients are still alive three years later, according to UNOS. Ninety-four percent of people aged 50 to 64 live for at least three months.
- In the United States, 15,771 people are waiting for a liver transplant, according to The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- Livers, like kidneys, can be transplanted either from someone who has just died or someone still alive. A piece of liver can be taken from a living donor and will grow and function inside the recipient.
- Hepatitis, alcohol abuse and drug-induced cholestasis can all cause liver failure. Cholestasis is a blockage in the flow of bile from the liver.
- Only about 2 percent of people on the waiting list for liver transplant need it because of cancer. Liver cancer can be primary -- meaning it started in the liver -- or it can spread from other organs.
Sources: United Network for Organ Sharing, U.S. Health and Human Services Department, U.S. National Institutes of Health
(Compiled by Maggie Fox; editing by Mohammad Zargham)