Saudi Journal of Kidney Diseases and Transplantation

: 1996  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 178--181

Story of the First Liver Transplant in Saudi Arabia

Muaffak Jawdat 
 Department of Surgery, Riyadh Armed Forces Hospital, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Correspondence Address:
Muaffak Jawdat
Department of Surgery, Riyadh Armed Forces Hospital, P.O. Box 7897, Riyadh 11159
Saudi Arabia


Chronic liver disease is common in Saudi Arabia with viral hepatitis and schistosomiasis being the common causes. I herewith describe the experience on the first liver transplantation in Saudi Arabia and the Arab World. The patient was a 23-year old Saudi male who had cirrhosis of the liver secondary to sclerosing cholangitis. He underwent orthotopic liver transplantation on July 30, 1990. The post-operative course was uneventful and immunosuppression comprised of small doses of cyclosporine, azathioprine and prednisolone. The patient continues to be well six years post-transplant and is adequately rehabilitated.

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Jawdat M. Story of the First Liver Transplant in Saudi Arabia.Saudi J Kidney Dis Transpl 1996;7:178-181

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Jawdat M. Story of the First Liver Transplant in Saudi Arabia. Saudi J Kidney Dis Transpl [serial online] 1996 [cited 2020 Apr 5 ];7:178-181
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Chronic liver disease is common in Saudi Arabia and usually results from schisto­somiasis or viral hepatitis, which, in turn can cause primary hepatocellular carcinoma [1],[2] . Congenital liver diseases, biliary atresia, metabolic disturbances and sclerosing cholangitis are also seen and constitute further indications for liver transplantation [3] . The Riyadh Armed Forces Hospital (RAFH) has been involved in organ trans­plantation activities from 1979 when the first renal transplant was performed. Heart transplantation began in 1986 and bone marrow transplantation, in 1989 [4],[5] .

The acceptance of cadaveric donation by the Islamic community was already achieved and announced in the Senior Ulama Com­mission's Decision No.99, on August 25, 1992, which was adopted not only in Saudi Arabia but also in other Islamic countries [5] .

Until the liver transplantation program was started, treatment offered to patients with end­stage liver disease was limited to supportive medical management of encephalopathy, ascitis and esophageal varices [6] . I herewith describe the experience with the first liver transplant performed in Saudi Arabia.

 Case Report

Our patient was a 23-year old Saudi male, a third year student at the University of Madinah [Figure 1],[Figure 2]. He was suffering from chronic liver disease of eighteen months duration caused by cirrhosis developing secondary to sclerosing cholangitis. He was evaluated and investigated according to a pre-set protocol including percutaneous transhepatic cholangiogram, pre-transplant laparotomy and liver biopsy [Figure 3]. On July 29, 1990, the Saudi Center for Organ Transplantation (previously the National Kidney Foundation), informed us that a 17-­year old road traffic accident victim whose blood group was O-negative, had sustained brain-death and that his relatives had kindly agreed to donate his organs.

Our liver donor criteria were the same as the internationally accepted criteria appli­cable to a heart-beating donors with con­firmed brain-death. The harvesting of the liver graft, hepatectomy of the diseased liver [Figure 4] a and b and the transplantation of the liver into the recipient was performed according to the accepted techniques [7],[8],[9],[10],[11],[12] . The veno-venous by-pass technique was applied, which obviated the need for systemic anti-coagulation [13] . Thus, on July 30, 1990, the first-ever orthotopic liver transplant­ation, not only in Saudi Arabia but in the entire Arab World, was performed at the RAFH [7] . The post-transplant immunosup­pressive treatment comprised of a combi­nation of low-dose cyclosporin-A, azathio­prine and prednisolone.

The post-transplant progress of the patient was uneventful. Following discharge, the patient was followed-up in our surgical and gastro-enterological out-patient clinics. His liver function improved progressively post­transplant [Figure 5]. The patient continues to be well six years after transplantation and is fully rehabilitated with useful employ­ment. This achievement was made possible by the fact that the RAFH has advanced multi-disciplinary facilities which enabled the expansion of the organ transplant program to include liver transplantation.


The number of patients in Saudi Arabia with end-stage liver disease who require liver transplantation is increasing with each passing year. Two years after the first liver transplant was performed at the RAFH, two other centers have been established in Riyadh; the King Fahad National Guard Hospital and the King Faisal Specialist Hospital, and a third in Jeddah at the King Fahd Hospital. Over one hundred liver transplants have been performed in Saudi Arabia since then.

Liver transplantation is the treatment of choice for patients with end-stage liver disease, secondary to sclerosing cholangitis [14],[15] . Also, liver transplantation is a promising alternative to current therapy in the management of several forms of serious liver diseases. The reported one-year patient survival after liver transplantation is over 70% [16] . Our patient is nearly six years post-transplant at the time of writing this paper. He is doing well and after completing his education, he is working as a school teacher. He has also resumed his social activities, is now married, and has 18-month old, healthy daughter.

Previously, a number of Saudi patients used to have renal transplant abroad, but over the last few years, this trend has changed [5],[7] . Considering the fact that the first liver transplantation in Saudi Arabia was successful, followed by the successful launching of liver transplant programs in three other centers in the Kingdom, it is hoped that in the future, we will be able to perform more liver transplants and thereby, cater to the needs of the patients with end­ stage liver disease.


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