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Health Beat: 3D livers: A medical first

Published On: Apr 16 2014 02:27:36 PM EDT   Updated On: Apr 16 2014 05:39:25 PM EDT

On average, there are 16,000 people on the waiting list for a liver transplant. Finding a live donor is becoming a feasible option for many patients, but the surgery can be risky for recipients and donors.


When Mollie Moreland found out her brother-in-law, Chris Wagner, needed a liver transplant, she offered to be the donor.

"I was so touched by just her generosity and her courage," Wagner said.

Moreland, 24, didn't think twice when doctors told her she would have to give two-thirds of her liver to Wagner and had up to a one in 200 chance of dying.


"There's no turning back. He needed it," Moreland said.

Before the transplant, surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic took images of Moreland's liver and printed a 3D replica that was an exact copy of the organ. They are the only doctors in the world doing this.

"We may be able to improve on the outcome and decrease complications," said Dr. Nizar Zein, chief of hepatology and medical director of liver transplantation, Cleveland Clinic.

The 3D organ is transparent, so surgeons can see all the major veins, arteries and structures. They use it to plan surgery and even make decisions in the operating room.

"This physical model, you have it in surgery. You are able to manipulate it the same way you do for a person’s liver," Zein said.

Wagner recovered, and Moreland's liver regenerated two weeks after surgery.

"She’s just been just amazing about the whole thing, Wagner said.


So far, Cleveland Clinic surgeons have used the 3D livers in about 25 surgeries. They hope to also use the models for tumor removal surgery and to one day create real organs in a lab to use in transplantation.

Moreland and Wagner started a charity to raise awareness and money for live donors.

On average, 16,000 people are on the waiting list for a liver transplant.

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