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Return Of First N.Z. Liver/Bowel Transplant

Media Release
2 October, 2003

Return Of First N.Z. Liver/Bowel Transplant Highlights Need For Research

The first New Zealander to have a transplant of the liver and small bowel has just returned from life-saving surgery in Toronto. Thirty-two year old Scott Large faced a bleak future before his double transplant , but is now looking forward to getting back to normal life in Christchurch.

Scott went to Toronto earlier this year and then had an anxious wait for several months for compatible organs. He also faced further delays with the outbreak of the SARS epidemic, which affected normal health services in the Canadian city.

Scott has suffered from Crohn’s disease since his teens which had eaten away his small bowel until virtually nothing was left. Although Scott’s experience is at the very severe end of the spectrum, Crohn’s disease is one of two potentially serious conditions which make up Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), affecting approximately 10,000 New Zealanders. Many are still under 20 years old.

One of the big problems in managing IBD is that so little is known about what causes this debilitating and potentially life-threatening condition, and its prevalence in N.Z.. The Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Otago University, has now embarked upon a long-term research project to find answers to what causes Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis).

Clinical researcher Dr Richard Gearry says a better understanding of IBD is urgent as it can cause serious long-term health problems for patients. Complications can include anaemia, peritonitis and bowel cancer.

“There is no immediate cure at present for this condition, so the aim of treatment is to control the symptoms which can be pretty nasty in their severe form. People typically suffer from abdominal pain, diarrhoea, rectal bleeding and weight loss. They have to be closely supervised with medication, and often have to undergo surgery to try to control the disease,” he says.

Dr Gearry’s research aims to find out how many people in Canterbury have IBD. He is would like patients in Canterbury to contact him at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences if they are interested in taking part in this research.

The Canterbury Inflammatory Bowel Disease Project wants to investigate:

- Environmental factors from early childhood that could be linked to the disease
- The role of specific genes in the development of IBD
- Improving the use of medications to patients
- Developing better ways of assessing the severity of the disease

Dr Gearry says one of the other interesting aspects of Inflammatory Bowel Disease is that globally it has increased dramatically in recent years, but the cause of this escalating prevalence is still unknown. This research is funded by the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation.

Scott Large will be available for interview at Christchurch Hospital from 10 am on Friday October 3rd. Please contact Dr Richard Gearry in the Gastroenterology Department to make further arrangements.


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