Bloodless liver surgery done on baby

LOS ANGELES -- A 7-month-old Iowa boy received part of his grandmother's liver in a surgery performed without blood transfusions, which the family's religion prohibits, doctors said Wednesday.

Aiden Michael Rush, whose parents are Jehovah's Witnesses, received 20 percent of Vicky Rush's liver in a Feb. 7 "bloodless" surgery at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. The surgery is believed to be the first of its kind performed on an infant patient, but may become routine.

"We made special arrangements in this case because of this family's religious beliefs, but from now on, we'll do this on every child to reduce our use of blood products," said Dr. Yuri Genyk, a member of the team that performed the surgery.

Jehovah's Witnesses say the Bible prohibits them from accepting transfusions of whole blood or blood products. That prohibition has made church members prime candidates for "bloodless" liver transplant surgeries, including the four that surgeons have performed on adult Witnesses at USC University Hospital since 1999.

That history drew the Rush family to Los Angeles from their home in Tipton, Iowa, for the surgery.

"I had people tell me flat out I wouldn't find anybody who would do this surgery," said Heather Rush, 26, Aiden's mother. "But I wasn't going to give up until I found someone to help us."

Aiden was born with biliary atresia, a condition where the bile duct is obstructed. Earlier, he underwent surgery to connect his bile duct inside the liver to his intestine, but then developed end-stage liver disease. Without a transplant, the disease would have been fatal.

Surgeons at USC University Hospital first removed a portion of Vicky Rush's liver, which should grow back in as little as six to eight weeks.

Doctors then rushed the grandmother's liver to Childrens Hospital, where it was implanted in Aiden during a surgery that lasted more than six hours.

During the surgery, blood suctioned from the incision surgeons made in the young patient was recycled back into his body, a practice that is in line with Witness precepts. Normally, pediatric liver transplants require two to three units of transfused blood.