China Claims Digestive Tract Transplant

A Chinese woman has received a new intestinal tract and four other organs in the first successful transplant of its kind in Asia, a Shanghai hospital said Tuesday.

Lu Xiao, a 38-year-old woman from Shanghai, suffered from polyps that covered her entire digestive system, and some had turned cancerous, the Shanghai Ruijin Hospital said.

In a 14-hour-long operation on Nov. 14 that involved 30 doctors and nurses, Lu received a new intestinal tract, stomach, spleen, liver and pancreas, said Wang Min, a hospital spokeswoman.

All the organs came from one donor, whose identity could not be disclosed because the family requested confidentiality, Wang said.

Lu was taken off a respirator two days after the operation and has been recovering well, Wang said. "She's able to take water and other fluids now," she added.

So far, Lu has not suffered from any organ rejection (search). However, the risk of future rejection or infection remains.

It was unclear why the hospital waited over a month to announce the operation.

Multiple organ transplants involving the intestinal tract initially were more common among children, but in recent years the success rate for such transplants among adults has improved.

A report on state-run television showed doctors handling bags of blood and surgeons at work in the operating theater.

"Only about 20 adults around the world have received this kind of surgery, many of them in the United States, and only one in Europe. This is the first time for Asia," said Li Hongwei, the hospital's director.

In March, a 7 1/2-month-old Italian girl received an intestinal tract, liver, stomach and three other organs in a transplant at a Miami hospital.

Wang said she did not know the costs of the transplant, but noted that the hospital has access to charity funds.

"At this stage, we're focused only on her recovery," she said.

Shanghai Ruijin Hospital is one of China's most advanced medical facilities. State media say it has been performing organ transplants since the 1970s, and set up a transplant center in 2002.

Chinese hospitals conduct more than 5,000 transplants each year. But hundreds of thousands of potential transplant recipients remain on waiting lists due to an extreme shortage of organs. Traditions that favor leaving bodies completely intact tend to discourage organ donations, even among family members.