A pilot case unlike any other — Massachusetts General Hospital transplants hepatitis-C tainted liver

Born with biliary atresia, Ben Blake, 26, underwent his first liver transplant when he was seven-months old. Twenty years later, his liver was failing and he needed a replacement.

He waited five years on the organ transplant list, and wasn't close to receiving another liver. It was then that physicians at Boston-based Massachusetts General Hospital approached the family with an idea; to use a hepatitis-c tainted liver, the Boston Globe reports.

Here's what you should know.

1. Mr. Blake elected to be among the first in the country to receive such an implant. The procedure works by enrolling a patient into a hepatitis-C drug trial before and after the transplant. "The idea is that it keeps the virus from spreading outside the liver and shuts it down within the organ itself," according to the Boston Globe.

2. The procedure is relatively new. The Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah says it was the first facility to perform a contaminated liver transplant. Baltimore-based John Hopkins Hospital and Philadelphia's Perelman School of Medicine researchers began a pilot study of 10 patients who received tainted kidneys last year.

The eight patients John Hopkins physicians operated on have not yet contracted hepatitis-C, but are still at risk.

3. Charles Rosen, MD, of the Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic said there's a risk that a patient could contract hepatitis-C and be immune to the cure. However, he told the Boston Globe, "It's a very reasonable things to do on a patient-by-patient situation."

4. As for Mr. Blake, his surgery was a success. He has shown no signs of infection, but physicians admitted him to the hospital for two stays because of possible infection.

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