50th anniversary of the first successful European liver transplant

Today in 1968 the first successful European liver transplant was carried out at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, on Trumpington Street, Cambridge, and to mark this groundbreaking event we have created a new display in the Hospital Museum.

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On 2 May 1968, Professor of Surgery, Sir Roy Calne, performed the first successful liver transplant in Europe at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

When the details of the donor and recipient were discussed by other consultants in the surgical department, there was opposition to the transplant going ahead. But following discussions between Professor Calne and his mentor – American transplant pioneer Professor Francis Moore – they agreed the surgery should proceed.  Sir Roy led and Professor Moore, who was visiting Cambridge from his Boston Hospital, assisted.

The recipient recovered from a long and technically demanding operation, but died two months later.

The current British longest surviving liver transplant recipient had his transplant in 1975 in an operation led by Professor Sir Roy Calne.

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For nearly 10 years after the first liver transplant at Addenbrooke’s, it and Denver USA were the only two centres in the world with regular programmes of clinical liver transplantation.  Today there are seven centres in the UK alone.

The intensive care unit (ICU) played a major role in the survival of patients receiving liver transplants.  The transplant programme and ICU grew and intertwined here in Cambridge and their close working relationship is a major contributor to the excellent outcomes for patients undergoing organ transplantation.

In 2017, 105 liver transplants and 10 multi-organ transplants (including the liver) were carried out at Addenbrooke’s.

This work has been supported by the Heritage Lottery and Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust.

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