It costs as little as $2 and until now has been considered just a toy, but a simple ping-pong ball is keeping liver transplant patient Mackenzie Argaet alive.
In a world first, an Australian surgeon has used the radical method in a transplant operation, which has won him international accolades.
Dr. Albert Shun, from The Children's Hospital at Westmead, used the unorthodox approach when confronted with a medical problem while operating on the 2-year-old girl.
Born with a rare gastrointestinal disorder known as biliary atresia, Mackenzie needed the life-saving operation earlier this year.
But after inserting a portion of an adult-size liver in the little girl, Shun discovered it was too big and was placing pressure on her blood vessels which could have been fatal.
Having heard about the use of ping-pong balls in operations overseas, he decided to test their suitability in transplant surgery.
"I was using a sponge as a back-up purpose but there was no way I could close her up the way it was,” he said. “She is the first (transplant patient) in the world that the ping-pongs have been used for these purposes."
In Mackenzie's case, the ball keeps the liver off the arteries. Since her operation, Shun and his team have performed the procedure several times.