PITTSBURGH, NOV. 1 -- Surgeons transplanted a liver, pancreas, small intestine and part of a stomach and colon today into a 3-year-old girl who has never eaten solid food because of a deadly defect in her digestive system.
Doctors said that without the experimental surgery, Tabatha Foster of Madisonville, Ky., would have died within weeks.
The operation began at 10 p.m. Saturday and ended nearly 15 hours later, said Lynn McMahon, spokeswoman for Children's Hospital.
"Tabatha is doing very well now, taking into consideration that she's had a very large operation," Dr. Marc Rowe, the hospital's chief surgeon, said this evening.
Surgeons removed Tabatha's spleen, an organ that acts as a blood filter and can trigger rejection of transplanted organs, said Rowe, who watched the operation and acted as spokesman for the eight surgeons who took part.
Similar transplants have been performed only twice, and the patients died, said Sue Cardillo, another hospital spokeswoman.
"There are risks involved technically in terms of making the connections with the transplanted organs to the recipients, and there are dangers associated with rejection," she said. "Since this procedure hasn't been done many times before, physicians themselves aren't sure what all the risks might be."
Tabatha was born with short gut syndrome, a fatal condition in which her twisted intestines interfered with blood circulation. Two days after birth, surgeons removed a major portion of her small intestine, McMahon said. The operation corrected the blood-flow problem but necessitated a highly concentrated nutritious feeding that led to liver disease, she said.
The transplant became possible when the parents of an infant who died after an automobile accident in Virginia agreed to donate their daughter's organs, said Marty Walker, senior coordinator for the Knoxville Organ Donor Program.
While Tabatha needed only a small intestine and liver to survive, it was easier for surgeons to also transplant the other organs, McMahon said.