Decades-Long Dilemma: Lack of liver transplants at SGPGIMS sparks outcry; patients voice concern
A comprehensive analysis of liver transplants at SGPGIMS reveals a disheartening truth -- not a single liver transplant is being performed annually.
LUCKNOW “There have been only promises but no liver transplants in Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPGIMS) for the last year,” said a liver transplant patient in need, speaking on the condition of anonymity. His words encapsulate the frustration surrounding the status of liver transplants in Uttar Pradesh’s premier medical institution.
A comprehensive analysis of liver transplants at SGPGIMS reveals a disheartening truth -- not a single liver transplant is being performed annually. The bleak history dates back to the turn of the millennium when the first liver transplant was successfully conducted in December 2000, followed by two more in February 2001 and November 2002. Tragically, all three transplants were technically successful but ended in tragedy due to post-operative complications, resulting in the loss of 16 out of 21 patients who sought liver transplants at SGPGIMS.
The most recent liver transplant took place on February 12, 2022, involving an 18-year-old girl, and prior to that, on January 24, 2019, with a nine-year-old boy as the recipient. Notably, the 2022 transplant was a collaborative effort between SGPGIMS and the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS), as both institutions had signed a memorandum of understanding in 2021.
Despite the presence of a highly skilled team of doctors at SGPGIMS, the massive investment by the state government in the Centre of Hepatobiliary Diseases and Transplantation (CHBDT) has yet to yield consistent liver transplant services. Alarming statistics indicate that approximately 6,000 liver patients in the state are in dire need of transplants, yet no local hospitals provide this vital service. Those with the financial means resort to receiving transplants at institutions such as ILBS in Delhi, Fortis, or Medanta in Gurgaon.
The director of SGPGIMS, Professor Radha Krishna Dhiman, attributes the delay in liver transplants to the lack of donors. He stated, “We have seven patients lined up for liver transplant but none of them has any donor. The doctors have lined up everything, but how can we transplant if we don’t have a donor for the transplant?”
In an attempt to revitalise the liver transplant program at SGPGIMS, Professor Dhiman, with his extensive experience of more than 100 liver transplants at PGI Chandigarh, has taken the helm. The institute has invested in training its doctors, anaesthesia experts, paramedical, and nursing staff at ILBS in Delhi, with several specialists having completed their training.
Professor Dhiman emphasised, “The screening of seven patients has been performed, and liver transplants are supposed to start as soon as we get the donors. A liver transplant is a complex procedure, and perfect training of the surgeons, anaesthetists, and other support staff was necessary.”
He further added that, despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, SGPGIMS doctors have been diligently preparing for the future. “When PGI starts liver transplants, it will come as a big relief for those patients who cannot afford to travel to other cities for surgery. Secondly, surgery at SGPGIMS will be one of the most cost-effective options when compared to private hospitals.”
However, a PGI doctor expressed, “After spending crores on building and setting up infrastructure for the Center of Hepatobiliary Diseases and Transplantation (CHBDT), they cannot start liver transplant. If the transplant is not starting regularly now, this would be a criminal waste of public funds. Someone will have to be held accountable for this delay in liver transplant in PGI. The top management has hundreds of excuses for not starting liver transplant, but insiders know what the reasons are.”