As populations age, robotic organ transplants offer hope

As life expectancies rise across the world, the need for organ donation increases. In a new healthcare breakthrough, the first robotic liver sparks hope

King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Centre (KFSH & RC) has successfully performed a robotic liver transplant on a 66 year old man. Robotic organs could mean an end to months-long waiting lists for organ donations and give hope to the growing number of elderly people across the world, whose quality of life can be improved with a healthy organ. 

Organ donation can be replaced by robotics - one job humans don’t mind losing to AI

Organ donation was pioneered in 1954, by Dr Joseph E Murray. Richard Herrick was dying of kidney disease and his brother Ronald agreed to a kidney donation trial, which was successful. Murray received a Nobel Prize "for discoveries concerning organ and cell transplantation in the treatment of human disease" and featured on our ‘Top 10 healthcare inventions that changed our way of life’. 

Since then, organ transplants have gone on to save, or dramatically boost the quality of life, for millions of people. There are an estimated 144,300 organ transplants each year. In the USA, the average age of a liver transplant recipient is aged 57, while the average age for a kidney transplant is 55.

However, in order for this method to work, people have to sign up to donate their organs after death, something which many object to on cultural grounds or in response to the organ harvesting trade

But in recent years, with the advent of 3D printing and robotic technology, there is another option for those who need an organ - robotic ones. This has recently been explored at King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Centre. The procedure for robotic livers offers:

  • Reduced recovery times, due to smaller incisions
  • Lower rates of complications, such as infections.

The future of liver transplants and organ healthcare

KFSH & RC has been celebrated as a designated training centre for robotic transplant surgery. 

"With this remarkable feat, we at KFSH & RC reaffirm our commitment to pushing the boundaries of medical innovation and enhancing the quality of healthcare services offered to patients worldwide,” said Dr. Dieter Broering, Executive Director of the Organ Transplant Center of Excellence at KFSH & RC. “The successful implementation of fully robotic liver transplants marks a pivotal moment in the history of organ transplantation and firmly positions KFSH & RC as a world-leading centre in this field."



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