Transplanting Too Soon

Hundreds of patients each year undergo liver transplants when they don't need them, and possibly never will, a four-month Tribune-Review 2008 investigation found. One in 10 of those patients dies when they could have lived longer without the transplant. The rest — all at the rock-bottom of waiting lists — must resign themselves to an early battle with the burdensome risks of anti-rejection drugs and complications that can follow: infections, cancers, kidney damage, and high blood sugar. What's worse, a third of those patients get the worst available livers, organs sometimes rejected by surgeons for thousands of sicker patients across the country.

Day 1: How liver surgeries cut short patients' lives

Hundreds of patients each year undergo liver transplants when they don't need them, and possibly never will, a four-month Pittsburgh Tribune-Review investigation found. One ...

Day 1: Rejected livers often land in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS -- Calls come in from across the United States, around the clock. Organ procurement agencies have livers that are about to be thrown out ...

Day 1: MELD 15 hasn't become magic number

The nation's liver allocation system had to be fixed. Far too many livers were being taken to transplant centers that were using them on patients ...

Day 1: Offer of a liver only the beginning of a long road

Michael Weekley wanted to wait for the liver transplant. He'd been feeling healthy after years of battling liver disease and told his sister he didn't ...

Day 2: Treat sickest first, or give livers to the less ill?

The father of transplantation felt bewildered. The transplant center bearing Dr. Thomas E. Starzl's name at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center now does the ...

Day 2: Starzl institute: 'Nobody has a unit like this'

On a recent clinic day at UPMC Montefiore, dozens of liver and kidney transplant patients clogged the seventh-floor waiting room. A man with jaundiced skin ...

Day 2: 'The sicker they are ... you see a miracle'

MIAMI -- Dr. Andreas Tzakis cuts open the woman's belly to reveal her sick liver. Its surface is bumpy and dark pink. "It's supposed to be ...

Day 2: Medical ethics issue focuses on 'doing no harm' to patients

With a limited supply of organs, liver transplant surgeons must worker harder to maintain the guiding principle of doing no harm, medical ethicists ...

Day 3: Doing fewer transplants cuts money, prestige

INDIANAPOLIS -- Lying in an intensive care unit four days after surgery, Jeff Hagan praised surgeons here for giving him a liver when ...

Day 3: Surgeons, others see a need for changes

Trying to save lives is not enough. Liver transplant surgeons said they must balance each patient's survival odds against the vitality of their overall transplant ...

About the data

• Despite a federal rule designed to limit the number of liver transplants in patients who aren't critically ill, four of the nation's 127 programs ...